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Presidents pay tribute after ‘fabulous’ first lady Barbara Bush dies at 92

The wife of the 41st president and mother of the 43rd died in Houston.

US presidents past and present have paid tribute to Barbara Bush after she died at the age of 92.

George HW Bush held the hand of his wife all day and was by her side when she died in Houston, a spokesman said.

Jean Becker, the chief of staff at Mr Bush’s office, said in a statement that the 41st president “is broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara”.

Ms Becker said it’s a “very challenging time” for 93-year-old Mr Bush, but “he also is stoic and strong, and is being lifted up by his large and supportive family”.

The Bushes’ son, 43rd president George W Bush, said the family’s “souls are settled because we know hers was”.

A spokesman said Mrs Bush died on Tuesday. A statement on Sunday had said she had decided to terminate medical treatment for assorted ailments and would seek comfort therapy instead.

In his statement, George W Bush called his mother “a fabulous first lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love and literacy to millions”.

He said his mother “kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end”.

Jimmy Carter paid tribute to Mrs Bush’s “warmth, generosity and keen wit”.

The former Democratic president said she was “the matriarch of a family dedicated to serving”.

In a statement, he said that through Mrs Bush’s “work to promote literacy as a value in every American home, countless families now have the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in all aspects of their lives”.

Bill and Hillary Clinton called Mrs Bush a remarkable woman with “grit and grace, brains and beauty”.

The Clintons said she was “fierce and feisty in support of her family and friends, her country and her causes”.

Mr Clinton, who defeated her husband in the 1992 election, said she “showed us what an honest, vibrant, full life looks like. Hillary and I mourn her passing and bless her memory”.

President Donald Trump has ordered US flags to be flown at half-mast in honour of the former first lady.

Mr Trump said Americans mourn the loss of “an outstanding and memorable woman of character”.

He called Mrs Bush “an advocate of the American family” who “lived a life that reminds us always to cherish our relationships with friends, family and all acquaintances”.

His proclamation calls for flags to remain lowered until sunset on the day of her burial.

Funeral services are planned for 11am on Saturday at St Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, which she and Mr Bush regularly attended.

According to a post on the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation website, she will lie in repose from noon to midnight on Friday at the church for members of the public wishing to pay respects.

The funeral service is by invitation only.

Burial will be in the grounds of the Bush library at Texas A&M University in College Station, about 100 miles north west of Houston. The couple’s three-year-old daughter Robin, who died in 1953 of leukaemia, is also buried at the site.

The Bushes, who were married on January 6 1945, had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history, and Mrs Bush was one of only two first ladies who had a child who was elected president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.

The Bushes raised five children: George W, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy.

Mrs Bush was born Barbara Pierce in Rye, New York. Her father was the publisher of McCall’s and Redbook magazines. After attending Smith College for two years, she married young naval aviator George Herbert Walker Bush. She was 19.

After the Second World War, the Bushes moved to the Texas oil patch to seek their fortune and raise a family. It was there that Mr Bush began his political career, representing Houston for two terms in Congress in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In all, the Bushes made more than two dozen moves that circled half the globe before landing at the White House in 1989. During the next four years, opinion polls often gave her approval ratings that exceeded her husband’s.

The couple’s final move, after Mr Bush lost the 1992 election to Mr Clinton, was to Houston, where they built what she termed their “dream house” in an affluent neighbourhood. The Bush family also had an oceanfront summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

After retiring to Houston, the Bushes helped raise funds for charities and appeared frequently at events such as Houston Astros baseball games. Public schools in the Houston area are named for both of them.

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