Local reaction: Barbara Bush was ‘the country’s mother’

By Gary Abernathy - [email protected]



Highland County Republicans and the leader of the local Democratic Party all expressed sadness Wednesday at the passing of Barbara Bush, and were united in their admiration of the former first lady.

Mrs. Bush died Tuesday at age 92.

“She was a special lady,” said Kay Ayres, the former chair of the Highland County Republican Party. Ayres, who met Mrs. Bush on at least two occasions, said she “had a great influence on two of our presidents.”

Barbara Bush was the wife of former President George H.W. Bush and the mother of former President George W. Bush.

“She was a lovely lady, very personable,” said Ayres, noting that most people were more excited to meet Barbara Bush than to meet her husband.

“She was the country’s mother,” said Ayres.

Paulette Donley, current chair of the local GOP, said she once attended an event with the former first lady.

“She was the matriarch of the family,” said Donley. “Everything she did publicly was such a tribute to how honest and real she was.”

Calling Mrs. Bush “a classy lady,” Donley said was “genuine in her words of encouragement, but spoke her mind.” Donley called her “a good momma.”

Bill Fawley, Highland County auditor and a former congressional aide, said he met Mrs. Bush in passing at the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit, where his wife, Dianne, was an alternate delegate for Ronald Reagan.

“She showed us how we should treat other people,” said Fawley. “Whether you were a king or a hamburger flipper, she had the same sense of humor and a love of other people.”

Fawley called her a “top notch” woman who “had a great effect on others.”

Dinah Phillips, chair of the Highland County Democratic Party, said Wednesday that even though they were of different political parties, she considered Mrs. Bush “a grand lady, in every sense of the word.”

Phillips said the former first lady was “family oriented,” and an asset to her husband.

“I think a lot of people voted for H.W. because of Barbara,” said Phillips. She said Mrs. Bush was “everybody’s mother and grandmother.”

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456, or follow on Twitter @AbernathyGary.


By Gary Abernathy

[email protected]