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Barbara Bush Was ‘Gold Standard’ For First Ladies: GOP Jews

(JTA) – Barbara Bush “was the gold standard for what it means to be First Lady,” the Republican Jewish Coalition said.

The wife of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, as well as the mother of the 43rd, George W. Bush, died Tuesday night at her home in Houston. She was 92 and had been battling COPD, a lung disease, and congestive heart failure, according to reports.

Barbara Bush was known for her large fake pearl chokers and grandmotherly appearance, and her no-nonsense attitude. As first lady from January 1989 to January 1993, Bush reportedly often polled as more popular than her husband.

“Barbara Bush was an extraordinary woman,” Norm Coleman, national chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former U.S. senator from Minnesota, said in a statement. “She dedicated her life to public service, and worked tirelessly to help sick children and people in need. She inspired millions and helped countless others. She will be deeply missed, but her legacy of charity will live on. May her memory be a blessing.”

On Monday, a Bush spokesperson announced that the former first lady had made a decision to halt medical treatment and receive comfort care in her home. She also suffered from Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes an overactive thyroid gland.

George H.W. Bush held his wife’s hand all day Tuesday and was at her side when she died, according to Jean Becker, chief of staff at George H.W. Bush’s office in Houston. The couple had been married for 73 years after meeting as teenagers at a school dance.

Barbara Bush championed family literacy during her time in the White House, focusing on bringing awareness to early childhood education and adult literacy for parents. She launched the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

A defining moment of her tenure as first lady was her visit to a residence for HIV-infected babies at a time when Americans were terrified by the AIDS virus, a disease that was not well understood by the public. Bush cuddled and kissed the babies with television cameras capturing the visit.

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