Former president George H.W. Bush dies at 94

- Former president George H.W. Bush has died, according to the Bush's family spokesperson. He was 94.

Bush passed away late Friday night at his Houston home, said family spokesman Jim McGrath.

His son and 43rd president, George W., issued a statement following the death of his father.

"Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro, and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died. George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens."

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump said in a statement that Bush “inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service” and “his example lives on, and will continue to stir future Americans to pursue a greater cause.”

 

94 years of 'faith, family and friends'

George H.W. Bush became the longest-living commander-in-chief in U.S. history in November 2017. He turned 94 years old on June 12, and as one might expect, the well-wishes came from far and wide. Through his spokesman, Jim McGrath, the former President thanked his friends, family and admirers for their outpouring of support.

"As many of you know, for years, I have said the three most important things in life are faith, family and friends. My faith has never been stronger. I am blessed with the world's most loving family. And thanks to you, I feel the love the best friends a man ever had. My heart is full on the first day of my 95th year," he said in part.

Farewell to Barbara

Earlier this year, the 41st President of the United States lost the love of his life. Former first lady Barbara Pierce Bush passed away on April 17, just days after her family announced the decision to end medical care to prolong her life. Mrs. Bush was 92 years old when she died. 

The Bushes were also the longest-married couple in U.S. presidential history, having celebrated 73 years of marriage in January. When she passed away, he was by her side holding her hand, as he reportedly had been all day.

After the former first lady passed away, George H.W. Bush released this statement about her death. 

"I always knew Barbara was the most beloved woman in the world, and in fact I used to tease her that I had a complex about that fact. But the truth is the outpouring of love and friendship being directed at The Enforcer is lifting us all up," the former president's statement said, using the nickname her family gave her over the years. "We have faith she is in heaven, and we know that life will go on -- as she would have it. So cross the Bushes off your worry list."

Barbara Bush’s funeral was held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, where the couple had been members since the early 1950s. Over 1,500 guests, including four former presidents, three former first ladies and current first lady Melania Trump, attended her service.

The Bushes’ oldest son, former President George W. Bush, pushed his father’s wheelchair into the church, where the family paid tribute to their matriarch. Their son Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, said in his mother’s eulogy that he felt privileged that he had a "front row" seat to the incredible love story that his parents shared.

Recent health issues

George H.W. Bush was hospitalized just one day after his wife was laid to rest. He was admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital after an infection spread to his blood, McGrath said. George H.W. Bush was discharged from the hospital on May 4, and a family spokesperson said he was doing well and happy to be home. 

Later in May, George H.W. Bush was admitted to a Maine hospital to be treated for low blood pressure, but he was discharged about a week later.

George H.W. Bush had been treated for a form of Parkinson’s disease in recent years and used a wheelchair and an electric scooter to get around as a result. He had been hospitalized several times for respiratory issues. 

In April 2017, the former president spent two weeks in the hospital with pneumonia and chronic bronchitis. He was also hospitalized in January 2017 with pneumonia, and during that stay, he spent time in the intensive care unit. Two years earlier, he was hospitalized in 2015 in Maine after falling at home and breaking a bone in his neck. In December 2014, he spent about a week in the hospital being treated for shortness of breath. He also spent Christmas 2012 in intensive care for a bronchitis-related cough and other issues.

The day before his wife’s funeral, George H.W. Bush spontaneously turned out to greet well-wishers who had come to the church to pay their final respects, sitting at the front of the casket and shaking hands with some of the over 6,200 people who lined up and waited their turn to say goodbye to the former first lady.


Former President George H. W. Bush greets the mourners with his daughter Dorothy "Doro" Bush Koch during the visitation for Barbara Bush at St. Martin's Episcopal Church. (Photo by Mark Burns/Office of George H.W. Bush via Getty Images)
 

George H.W. Bush: The early years

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts to his parents, Prescott Sheldon Bush and Dorothy Walker Bush. The family moved to Greenwich, Connecticut when he was still a boy.

George H.W. Bush’s family was wealthy, but still raised their children to be modest and stressed the importance of public service. Prescott Bush was an investment banker, but he later served as a Republican senator from Connecticut from 1952 to 1963.

George H.W. Bush attended Phillips Academy, an exclusive boarding school in Andover, Massachusetts, as a teen. There, he was captain of the baseball and soccer teams, and also served as president—of his senior class. 

A love story for the ages begins

It was while he was at Phillips Academy that George H.W. Bush met the woman who would become his wife. They were introduced at a dance when he was just 16 years old. Barbara Pierce Bush was home from boarding school on holiday break when they met.

After a couple of years of long-distance dating, they were engaged, just before George H.W. Bush shipped off to serve as a naval pilot in World War II. They were wed on January 6, 1945, at the First Presbyterian Church in Rye, New York, which is also Mrs. Bush's hometown.


Photo credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Military career

Many presidents have aircraft carriers named in their honor, but only George H.W. Bush knows what it’s like to fight on one. 

George H.W. Bush was a senior at Phillips Academy in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on his 18th birthday, and just before he turned 19, he became the Navy’s youngest pilot. 

In fact, he became a decorated naval pilot, flying torpedo bombers during World War II. His plane was shot down on Sept. 2, 1944, over Chi Chi Jima Island, and two of his crewmen were killed. George H.W. Bush was pulled from the Pacific Ocean by a submarine.

Photo credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Lt. j.g. George H.W. Bush was honorably discharged in September 1945, with 1,228 hours of flight time, 126 carrier landings and 58 combat missions under his belt. George H.W. Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the U.S. Navy Air Medal with two gold stars. 


Photo credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

The Bush family is born

After he left the Navy, George H.W. Bush went on to graduate Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University-- where he was also captain of the baseball team-- in 1948. He earned a degree in economics. By that time, the couple had started a family with the birth of their first son, George W. Bush-- who would later become the 43rd president of the United States in 2001.

After graduation, the young Bush family immediately moved to Midland, Texas, where George H.W. Bush began his new career in the oil business.

Through the years, the Bushes had four sons-- George W.; John Ellis-- better known as Jeb-- who was the 43rd Governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007; Marvin and Neil, and a daughter named Dorothy, or Doro for short. Their second child, a daughter named Robin, died in 1953, just before her fourth birthday, after battling leukemia. 


Photo credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Over the years, George and Barbara became grandparents 17 times and have eight great-grandchildren. Their son Neil announced his daughter, Lauren, had given birth to a baby boy just two days after Barbara Bush passed away.


Photo credit: Getty Images

The road to the White House

Like his father, George H.W. Bush became interested in politics and public service. His career in public service officially began in February 1962, when he was elected chairman of the Harris County, Texas Republican Party.

He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1966, representing Texas’ seventh district. He served two terms. He ran twice for Senate, though unsuccessfully.

After that, George H.W. Bush held a number of high-level positions, including U. S. ambassador to the United Nations (1971-1973), chairman of the Republican National Committee (1973-1974), chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China (1974-1976), and director of the Central Intelligence Agency (1976-1977).

From Vice President Bush to Commander-in-Chief

In 1980, George H.W. Bush campaigned for the Republican nomination for president and lost, but was chosen as a running mate by former California Gov. Ronald Reagan and went on to become the vice president of the United States, serving two terms alongside Reagan (1980-1988). 

He tried again and won the Republican nomination for president in 1988. After defeating Michael Dukakis in the general election, George H.W. Bush was sworn in as the 41st president of the United States on Jan. 20, 1989, with Barbara by his side. 


Photo credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

In his inaugural address, George H.W. Bush pledged in “a moment rich with promise” to use American strength as “a force for good.”

George H.W. Bush was the first sitting vice president to ascend to the presidency since 1837. He was only the second American president to serve a full term without party control in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Still, he passed the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Clean Air Act, and fought for and negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

During his time in office, President George H.W. Bush faced a changing world. The West prevailed in the Cold War; the Soviet Union gave way to a democratic Russia; the Berlin Wall “fell” and Germany was unified within NATO, and President George H.W. Bush signed two treaties to drastically reduce the threat of nuclear war. 

George H.W. Bush’s greatest test came when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, then threatened to move into Saudi Arabia. Vowing to free Kuwait, George H.W. Bush rallied the United Nations, the U.S. people, and Congress and sent 425,000 American troops. They were joined by 118,000 troops from allied nations, working together to route Iraq's army after weeks of air and missile strikes. 

Also during his presidency, George H.W. Bush launched his “Points of Light” initiative to promote volunteerism and community service across America. During his term in office, George H.W. Bush named 1,020 daily Points of Light hailing from all 50 states. Volunteering was a major focus for the Bushes after the White House as well.

George H.W. Bush served one term as president, with Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his vice president. He lost his bid for a second term in office to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.

Post-presidential life

After leaving Washington, George H.W. Bush received high honors from nations all over the world. The Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in northern Virginia, Intercontinental Airport in Houston, and several schools in Texas were named for the former president. On Jan. 10, 2009, the USS George H.W. Bush, the 10th and last of the Navy's Nimitz-class supercarriers, was commissioned at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia.

In a ceremony at the White House on Feb. 15, 2011, the former president accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to him by then-President Barack Obama. 

But for this former president, family has always been the focus -- especially in his time after the White House. The Bushes moved 29 times in their first 44 years of their marriage, but they settled in Houston post-presidency, spending summers with their growing extended family in Kennebunkport, Maine.

According to his biography on the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library website, the former president took great pride in the fact that all of his children and grandchildren are helping others in their own communities. 


President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Mrs. Barbara Bush attend the HBO Documentary special screening of "41" on June 12, 2012, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for HBO)


From flying planes to jumping out of them

The first time George H.W. Bush jumped from a plane was when his aircraft was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during World War II. But after his presidency, he decided he liked jumping from them by choice. 

The former president went skydiving eight times over the years, to be exact. In fact, he went skydiving to mark his 75th, 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays near the Bush family's summer home in Kennebunkport. 

Former President Bush enjoys his tandem jump above Walker's Point, Kennebunkport, Maine on June 12, 2009, to mark his 85th birthday (Photo credit: George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Courtesy of U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team).

Even though he couldn't use his legs any longer, George H.W. Bush had vowed to go skydiving on his 90th birthday, a promise he lived up to. On June 12, 2014, he was joined by a retired member of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, Sgt. 1st Class Mike Elliott -- with whom he made three total tandem jumps with over the years. Elliott told Fox News after the jump that George H.W. Bush's harness was specially modified for him, and they kept an oxygen tank with them on the flight and the jump in case it was needed. 

It wasn't -- and in fact, Elliott told Fox News the former president was all about that final jump, this time from a helicopter.

"He was really motivated and just talking about the jump," Elliott said. "He had this great smile on his face. Forty-three came up and talked to him. Mrs. Bush came and gave him a big kiss. He was just celebrating his birthday. He has continued to live. He said, you know, just because he’s 90 doesn’t mean you have to stand in a corner. Continue to live and enjoy yourself."


Former first lady Barbara Bush greets her husband and former U.S. President George H.W. Bush with a kiss after his successful skydive down to St. Anne's Episcopal Church on June 12, 2014, in Kennebunkport, Maine. (Photo by Eric Shea/Getty Images)


Final resting place

The former president's final resting place will be on the grounds of his presidential library in College Station, Texas. He will be buried alongside his wife and daughter Robin, who are already buried at the same gated grave site.

See more photos of the former President George. H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush through the years in the slideshow above. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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