We begin the eighth year of this blog with the sad news most of you know by now. Former President George H.W. Bush passed away on Friday night at the age of 94. He is the fifth former President to expire in my 47-year lifetime and the first in nearly 12 years since Gerald Ford died in 2006.
I do feel a sense of sadness, though. He was the President when I graduated high school and made some tough decisions in his four-year term in office. (To show you what I geek for the news I used to be – I snuck in a radio to school on January 20, 1989, the day Mr. Bush became President. None of the classes I had that day had shown the inauguration on TV, and the school year was either in exam week or was close to it – so the event went ignored.) He is also, perhaps, a cautionary tale for the current President in one respect: after the first Persian Gulf War, his approval rating was above 90 percent – but he wound up losing the following year to an upstart governor from Arkansas named Bill Clinton.
Around the time of 9/11, my mother worked at one of the St. Petersburg nursing homes (of which there are many), and one of her residents was someone who worked for “Poppy” Bush at one time or another. She (the patient) was upset with some issue regarding the aftereffect of 9/11 (or so I seem to remember) and went on a hunger strike, so former President Bush took the time to call this woman up and had attempted to talk her out of it. I don’t remember whether or not Mr. Bush’s talk was successful or not, but I admired the fact that a former President would go out of his way to support someone like that.
The outpouring of love for “Poppy” will no doubt surprise a few. In a nearly unprecedented move, the stock market will close this upcoming Wednesday, December 5th – the day of the former President’s state funeral. Like many leaders, he has his critics – but I always thought he had a quiet dignity about him, and there’s nothing wrong with being quiet or having dignity.
(CORRECTION, 12/3/2018, 4:40 pm ET: I was erroneous in saying Mr. Bush was the fifth president to pass in my lifetime. He was the sixth. I forgot that Harry Truman died on December 26, 1972 – and I was born September 6, 1971.)