Bush fam­ily friends share in­ti­mate, one-of-a-kind mem­o­ries

China Daily (USA) - - PEOPLE - By MAY ZHOU in Hous­ton

In a 2016 let­ter to Lily and Charles Fos­ter, for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge H. W. Bush wrote: “The Fos­ters and Bushes have been friends for decades, and one thing we have al­ways known about you is that your life’s mis­sion is to ‘do your part’.”

The let­ter bears wit­ness to the Fos­ters’ friend­ship with the Bush fam­ily over the years.

Lily, a Chi­nese ac­tress pre­vi­ously known as Chen Ye, took her son and par­ents to lay flow­ers at the statue of Bush in down­town Hous­ton the day she heard the news of his death. The sculp­ture is the re­sult of Charles’ ef­forts, a tes­ta­ment to his ad­mi­ra­tion for Bush and their friend­ship.

Charles Fos­ter be­gan to de­velop a sub­stan­tial re­la­tion­ship with Bush due to a shared in­ter­est in China-US re­la­tions af­ter Bush left the White House and set­tled in Hous­ton.

“I was long term chair­man at the Asia So­ci­ety Texas Cen­ter, and to me Asia was all about China. I was de­lighted that, be­cause of Bush, it was eas­ier to in­vite high level Chi­nese of­fi­cials to Hous­ton. I made it a reg­u­lar habit to ar­range meet­ings with Bush,” Fos­ter said.

That re­la­tion­ship en­abled Fos­ter to in­vite Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Jiang Zemin to Hous­ton in 2002 when Jiang got an in­vi­ta­tion to Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ranch in Waco, Texas. Jiang met with Bush in Hous­ton and the gath­er­ing was a great vic­tory for Fos­ter.

Re­mem­ber­ing Bush, Fos­ter said: “Bush al­ways car­ried that North­east­ern per­son­al­ity, al­ways po­lite and un­fail­ingly a gen­tle­man in terms of how he treated peo­ple. At an event I or­ga­nized, he went into the kitchen to call [the staff ] over for a group photo.

“There is no tragedy when one has lived such a long, in­cred­i­ble, pur­pose­ful and ac­com­plished life, has lived fully un­til the very end and still be­ing loved and re­spected by all, even his for­mer po­lit­i­cal ri­vals.

“His­tory will con­tinue to be kind to Pres­i­dent Bush and his ac­com­plish­ments, par­tic­u­larly in for­eign pol­icy, which will guar­an­tee that he and his pres­i­dency will con­tinue to gain in stature,” Fos­ter said of Bush’s pass­ing.

Lily Fos­ter had in­ter­acted with Pres­i­dent Bush more on a per­sonal level. Some­times her di­rect­ness, much like Bar­bara Bush’s, broke through Pres­i­dent Bush’s wall of for­mal­ity.

When Charles first pro­posed the idea of a statue of Bush, Bush re­mained am­biva­lent for months. At a re­cep­tion, Lily, seated next to Bush, asked him: “Mr. Pres­i­dent, Charles wants to make a statue of you for Hous­ton, how come you won’t give him per­mis­sion?”

The point-blank ques­tion drew an im­me­di­ate re­sponse. Bush replied: “Damn it, I can’t say yes, I’m still alive. If they want to do it, go ahead, don’t ask me.”

“Charles and Pres­i­dent Bush were both too po­lite and they had got­ten stuck. I helped them to get over that,” Lily said.

She also helped Bush track down his fa­vorite Bei­jing duck chef in Hous­ton.

When he was US En­voy to China, Bush de­vel­oped a taste for the dish. In the 1990s, the fa­mous Quan­jude Bei­jing Roast Duck had opened a branch in Hous­ton.

“I im­me­di­ately told him about it. He dined there a cou­ple of times and liked the chef a lot. How­ever, later the chef went to an­other Chi­nese restau­rant. I told Bush 41 about it so he would know where to find his fa­vorite Bei­jing Duck. One time he said to me: ‘Lily, you have to keep track­ing that chef and let me know where he is,’” she re­called.

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