Former First Lady Barbara Bush’s ties to South Florida are anchored by family, friends and philanthropy.
Her son, former Gov. Jeb Bush, and mother-in-law, Dorothy Walker Bush, frequently received her as a guest in their homes in South Florida and on Jupiter Island.
Former President George Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, bought a home on Jupiter Island in the 1960s. It’s a place where the family vacationed for decades and where Dorothy Walker Bush lived for part of the year until near her death at 91 years old in 1992.
Barbara Bush’s support of literacy also played a role in bringing her to Florida, as well as support for children with AIDS during the height of the epidemic in the early 1990s.
In 1988, Barbara Bush arrived triumphantly at Palm Beach International Airport with her president-elect husband for the couple’s first vacation since the Republican convention three months earlier.
They were accompanied by their English springer spaniel, Millie, and greeted by then Gov. and Mrs. Bob Martinez and other supporters. George Bush told reporters that everything was “perfect” before his seven-car motorcade headed down Interstate 95.
The couple spent the weekend with longtime friend William Stamps Farish III at his oceanfront home in Gulf Stream.
One of Barbara Bush’s official photographers was former Palm Beach Post and Miami Herald photographer Carol Powers, who accepted the post in the White House in 1989. Powers worked at The Post in 1983 and 1984.
Barbara Bush made a stop to West Palm Beach in 1990 to visit Connor’s Nursery. At the time, the nursery was the state’s only shelter for children with Aids.
While at the nursery, Barbara Bush cracked one-liners, cooed baby talk and encouraged the community to help AIDS victims, according to a Palm Beach Post story.
“It’s important to know that you can love and hug and change these babies and be spit upon and you can’t get AIDS,” she said. “You can’t get AIDS from holding babies. If I didn’t know that before, I learned that from Ryan White.”
In 1992, Barbara Bush made a fund-raising visit to Florida, stopping at the Poinciana Club in Palm Beach for a $1,000-a-plate dinner for her husband’s re-election campaign. The stop was part of a statewide tour that raised $216,000 in Palm Beach County alone.
After her time as first lady ended, she still returned to the Sunshine State.
In 1999, she traveled to South Florida to visit her son Jeb Bush in 1999 where she read to children at the Feinberg/Fisher Elementary and Adult Education Center in Miami Beach. She was there to help kick off the governor’s Family Literacy Initiative.
Barbara Bush stumped for her son Jeb during his 2002 campaign for governor. Weeks before the election, she told family stories that earned laughs from an audience in Cape Coral, and doled out grandmotherly advice.
“Never lend your car to someone you gave birth to, or somebody they gave birth to,” she said.
In 2003, Barbara Bush spoke at The Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, sharing what she learned during her life, including “don’t take life too seriously.”
Another pearl of wisdom she shared during that 2003 visit: “Life is a gift, and we must not waste it.”