41st pres­i­dent con­sid­ered ‘Green­wich as home and friends’

Greenwich Time (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Tom Mel­lana

GREEN­WICH — To the world he was “Mr. Pres­i­dent.” In later years, af­ter his own son ac­quired that ti­tle, he be­came “41” or “H.W.”

Con­gress­man, CIA di­rec­tor, en­voy to China, am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions.

Ge­orge Her­bert Walker Bush wore all of those ti­tles in a po­lit­i­cal ca­reer of un­com­mon ac­com­plish­ment.

Be­fore them all, he was sim­ply “Poppy” to fam­ily and friends in Green­wich.

Bush died Fri­day at the age of 94 — less than eight months af­ter his

wife, Bar­bara Bush.

Not ex­actly a na­tive son — he was born in Mil­ton, Mass., on June 12, 1924 — Ge­orge H.W. Bush came to Green­wich as an in­fant. He grew up here, the sec­ond old­est of five sib­lings in a 1903 Vic­to­rian with a wrap­around porch at 15 Grove Lane.

“I think of Green­wich as home and friends,” Bush told Green­wich Time be­fore the 1980 New Hamp­shire pres­i­den­tial pri­mary,

won by even­tual GOP nom­i­nee and run­ning mate Ron­ald Rea­gan. “The change is amaz­ing. I guess I re­mem­ber Green­wich as more of a vil­lage ... the Pick­wick The­ater, the Franklin Si­mon store and the rail­road sta­tion. When I was in high school, we used to go on the train a lot to go to hockey games.”

He was named for his ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther, Ge­orge Her­bert Walker, who lived here for many years. Dorothy Bush, the pres­i­dent’s mother, called her fa­ther “Pop.” Her son be­came “Poppy.”

In Green­wich, the fu­ture leader of the free world got his first taste of gov­ern­ment ser­vice, watch­ing his fa­ther mod­er­ate the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Town Meet­ing.

It was here that a young boy’s brash­ness was sanded off, in lessons that could sting, and a Yan­kee hu­mil­ity in­stilled that would set him apart from Wash­ing­ton cir­cles and en­dear him to mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.

And it was in Green­wich that lead­er­ship qual­i­ties first took root and be­gan to grow, qual­i­ties that would carry him to ac­claim on the play­ing field and in the mil­i­tary, and to the most pow­er­ful seat on the planet.

Coun­try Day

His par­ents sent the young Ge­orge, by limou­sine, to Green­wich Coun­try Day School, where a note from his fifth-grade teacher on his re­port card proved to be prophetic.

“One day, Bush will be­come a leader,” the teacher wrote.

“I think they thought it was a great school, and they proved to be right,” Bush said of his par­ents dur­ing a 2009 in­ter­view with Coun­try Day Head­mas­ter Adam Ro­hdie at Bush’s home in Ken­neb­unkport, Maine. “They liked what they saw, they liked the teach­ers. It was a great ex­pe­ri­ence for us.”

It was at Coun­try Day that the young Bush first dis­played the ath­letic abil­ity for which he would be­come known. His fa­vorite sports were soc­cer, foot­ball and base­ball.

“I just couldn’t wait to get out there when the games would start,” he told Ro­hdie.

Some of his ear­li­est life lessons were learned through sports, many of which came from his coach at Coun­try Day, Unc Hil­lard.

“I clipped some guy over at Rip­powam, blind-sided him from be­hind,” reads a Bush quote on the school’s web­site. “And I re­mem­ber to this day, Unc said, ‘That was a cow­ardly thing you did. Never hit a guy from be­hind.’ ”

Bush was not just a force on the play­ing fields. He sang in an a cap­pella group known as the Dou­ble Octets and was of­ten called upon to in­tro­duce the songs, which he cred­ited with help­ing his pub­lic speak­ing. There was one prob­lem with singing, how­ever.

“I couldn’t carry a tune,” he told Ro­hdie.

No mat­ter.

“We’d go to Green­wich Academy and they would say, ‘Now we will sing ‘Lit­tle Eyes, I love you,’ ” he re­called. “And I’d step back and sing, ‘Lit­tle eyes, I love you.’ I re­mem­ber it very clearly. I don’t think I was of­fi­cially en­sconced as the leader, but none of the other kids wanted to do it. And I’ve never for­got­ten it.”

Fam­ily

The pa­tri­arch of the po­lit­i­cal clan was Prescott Bush Sr., a Yalee­d­u­cated in­vest­ment banker who honed his lead­er­ship skills as mod­er­a­tor of the RTM for 17 years be­fore go­ing on to serve in the U.S. Se­nate for 11 years.

“I was a late starter in pol­i­tics be­cause we weren’t such a po­lit­i­cal fam­ily when I was growing up,” Bush wrote in his 1988 mem­oir, “Lean­ing For­ward.” “Dad was a Repub­li­can and was ac­tive in state party fundrais­ing, but the sub­ject of pol­i­tics sel­dom came up at fam­ily gath­er­ings. Once a week he would sit in as mod­er­a­tor of the Green­wich town meet­ing, but that was more of a civic than po­lit­i­cal com­mit­ment.”

The elder Bush, first elected to the Se­nate in 1952, be­came known for di­plo­matic tal­ents that helped hold dis­parate fac­tions of a frag­mented Repub­li­can Party to­gether, though among his noted acts was en­gi­neer­ing Joseph McCarthy’s 1954 cen­sure in the Se­nate. To this day, the state Repub­li­can Party’s high­est honor is named for him.

Con­trib­uted photo

Ge­orge H.W. Bush, left, with his brother John at their home in Green­wich in the 1930s. Ge­orge was 13 at the time and his brother was 6.

Ge­orge Bush Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum / Con­trib­uted photo

Of­fi­cial por­trait of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush in 1992.

Lester Kier­stead Hen­der­son

The Bush Fam­ily, from left, sit­ting: Beth Bush, Prescott Jr., Nathon Bush, Dorothy Bush, Bar­bara Bush, Nancy Ellis; stand­ing: Wil­liam Bush, Prescott Sr., Ge­orge and Alexan­der Ellis in Green­wich.

Diana Walker / Getty Images

Clock­wise from above, Ge­orge H.W. Bush sits on a couch with his wife, Bar­bara, and their chil­dren in 1964; shares a golf cart with Bar­bara and their dog, Mil­lie, in Ken­neb­unkport, Maine, in 2004; and laughs dur­ing his re-elec­tion cam­paign in 1992.

As­so­ci­ated Press

David Hume Ken­nerly / Getty Images

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