most secret senior society, in 1947. His father was a member before him, as would be his son, future President George W. Bush, after him. “George Bush is exactly loyal to other friends as those who happened to be in the society with him,” former U.S. Rep. Thomas Ashley, D-Ohio, told the Associated Press in 1988. “His friendship across the social range is known to everyone.”
Members of Bush’s Bones class reunited in Washington while Bush was vice president, dining at the vice president’s mansion and touring the Oval Office.
It was after Yale that Bush left Connecticut for Texas and the oil industry. But he never cut his ties to Greenwich. Family, including his mother and older brother, still lived here, and he returned on occasion, even after attaining the highest of offices.
One visit was as vice president in September 1986, when he flew in for a rally at Greenwich High School. Students from Greenwich High, Brunswick, Greenwich Academy, Convent of the Sacred Heart and the Daycroft School met him as he arrived at Westchester County Airport and rode in his limousine back to the school.
When Bush ran for president in 1988, five Greenwich residents traveled to New Orleans to serve as delegates and alternates at the Republican National Convention.
“There’s a special, warm bond of friendship he will have with the Connecticut delegation and many personal bonds,” said William Nickerson, then state representative from the 140th District.
More than 180 members of the Bush extended family traveled to Washington for the 41st president’s inauguration. So did many friends from Greenwich. Some stayed there. Among the Greenwich residents who served in Bush’s administration were Joseph Verner Reed, White House chief of protocol; David George Ball, assistant secretary of labor; and former Greenwich Police Chief William Anderson, U.S. marshal.
Bush did not get back often to town as president, but often enough that residents of Pheasant Lane, where Dorothy Bush lived later in life, came to know the sound of the 25-vehicle presidential motorcade rumbling down their narrow road. Shortly before he left office, Bush returned to Pheasant Road, and Christ Church, for his mother’s funeral in 1992.
Eight years ago, the expresident, then 86, returned to Christ Church once again, making a low-key entrance through the side door of the sanctuary with an entourage of Secret Service agents in tow, and sitting in the third row of pews during a memorial service to the older brother he knew as Pressy.
Prescott Bush Jr. died June 23, 2010. Unlike his father and younger brother, Prescott Jr. lived most of his political life behind the scenes, helping others get elected. His boldest foray into the forefront came in a 1982 challenge to Lowell P. Weicker Jr.’s Senate seat, which he withdrew prior to that year’s primary in a show of party unity.
“They are just a premier American family,” Reed, a lifelong friend of the former president’s who died in 2016, told Greenwich Time after Prescott Jr.’s death.
That Bush, drawing on the early lessons from the playing fields and courts of Greenwich, did not wear the airs of a political scion turned out to be one of his great public strengths, though everyone didn’t always see it as such.
“We told him the fact that your mother told you not to brag is a big liability and you’re never going to be elected,” Russell Reynolds Jr., a longtime Greenwich resident and an inaugural ball chairman for Bush in 1989, told Greenwich Time in 2014. “We told him you have to be more forceful and talk about yourself.”
It wasn’t to be. The Yankee stoicism that forbade bragging also disallowed any sign of self pity, which Bush would not show, not when he lost his re-election campaign to Bill Clinton in 1992, not when Parkinson’s disease took the use of his legs late in life.
“He is a living example of grace and courage, regardless of the physical challenges that he deals with daily,” Debbie Walker Stapleton, a first cousin of Bush and longtime Greenwich resident, said on his 90th birthday, which he marked by jumping out of an airplane, despite using a wheelchair.
That reputation, earned over decades of public service, suffered last year when several women accused him of groping their buttocks while posing for photographs.
Bush’s staff at the time issued apologies and said the former president meant the actions as a joke, a motivation that sexual assault experts said matters little to the recipient. Those who knew Bush best, and much of the country, could not reconcile the accusations with the man they knew.
“Unbelievable,” Greenwich resident E. Pendleton James, who served as Ronald Reagan’s assistant for presidential personnel, said after the first accusation became public, adding that Bush treated women “with great respect and humor.”
President George H. W. Bush greets a crowd gathered at Nolan Field in Ansonia on Aug. 24, 1992.