The main rotunda of the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum housed a stream of several hundred guests Wednesday afternoon as the museum hosted a birthday celebration for the late president and his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush.
It was the first such gathering since former President Bush died at 94 in November, and the second since Mrs. Bush died in April 2018 at age 92. George Bush would have turned 95 Wednesday; Barbara Bush would have celebrated her 94th birthday last Saturday.
The guests enjoyed cake, popcorn, coffee, fruit and more. Scores of children and their families waited in line to have balloon animals made, while others from around the state — and the country — signed a large guest book before watching one of several films about the Bushes’ lives and legacies.
The festivities followed the stamp unveiling and ceremony for George H.W. Bush. In his remarks at the ceremony, Warren Finch, director of the Bush Library and Museum, described the stamp, and the day of celebration, as an apt occasion for the 41st president.
“It is a fitting tribute to a man who answered his country’s call so many times,” Finch said. “We miss them both so much, but we were lucky that they were a part of our lives for so long.”
Organizers set up several tall tables in the rotunda for the afternoon festivities. Around one of the tables stood 21-year-old Clemson University senior Michelle Logan, who was in town visiting her aunt, Teresita Honeycutt. They talked at length with Charles Roberts of Leander, who was visiting the museum with his girlfriend, Dina Stewart.
It’s amazing, beautiful and really well set up,” Logan said of the birthday decorations and the museum’s exhibits showcasing the former president’s life.
Logan and Honeycutt explored the museum before the birthday celebration. At 21, Logan wasn’t alive during Bush’s presidency, but she said she has come to admire what she described as Bush’s commitment to family.
“I definitely respect his family morals and how he has been family-centered his entire life,” Logan said. “He comes through as a humble and very passionate man.”
Charles Roberts said that President George W. Bush signed his retirement certificate from the Air Force, and that he and Stewart were headed next to the younger Bush’s presidential library in Dallas.
“I enjoyed the way they lived and the way they worked well together,” Roberts said of George and Barbara Bush.
Texas A&M University student Haleigh Nuenke, 20 said that friend and fellow student Catherine Welch, 21, sent her information about the event early Wednesday. Nuenke said she wasn’t able to see the funeral services and wanted to be sure to be part of the birthday events.
“I know how big a part of the university they were, so I feel like it is part of my job as a student to come out and pay my respects to them since they were such big supporters of the university,” Nuenke said.
Welch, a political science student, said she particularly admires Bush’s work championing the American Disabilities Act, which the president signed into law in July 1990.
“He started a pathway and a conversation on that, and I love that. I feel like not enough attention is brought to that today,” Welch said.