For more than a decade, David Valdez was part of the Bush family. In a way, he was right. As the White House photographer for George H.W. Bush during his vice-presidency and during his presidential term, Valdez was there for the historic moments that defined the Bush administration.
“Some incredible things in world history happened in a short period of time. and George Bush was there, and at his side always was Barbara Bush the enforcer, making sure he kept a steady course,” Valdez said.
Barbara Bush passed away on April 17, 2018 at the age of 92, following a series of hospitalizations and after deciding not to move forward with additional health care. She instead focused on comfort care in the last days of her life, a spokesperson for her husband said.
“I don’t know what life is going to be like without Barbara Bush around,” Valdez added. “I really feel sorry for the president and the children.”
“They embraced me and wanted me to be a part of everything,” Valdez recalled of the First Family.
Mrs. Bush is the second woman in history to be married to a president and the mother of another. Abigail Adams was married to America’s second president John Adams, and mother to the sixth president, John Quincy Adams.
Her literacy work is part of her legacy, Valdez mentioned, honing in on the idea that if children can learn to read, they can be educated and move up out of poverty. He said it was a privilege to witness and document those efforts.
Hours after learning of Bush’s passing, Valdez stood in a room of his Georgetown, Texas residence, called the “Presidential Suite.” It is home to dozens of pieces of memorabilia, mementos from his time in Washington, keepsakes from the Bush family, and of course, photographs.
“I’m so proud to have had an opportunity to work with them, meet them, hopefully be friends with them, and it’s a memory I will cherish forever,” Valdez said. He thumbed through a book full of credentials and travel documents, with photos and other memories of trips to the seventy-five countries he visited on the job.
With a smile, Valdez remembered the former First Lady always seemed to know what to say, though there were times that the unspoken bond he had with Mrs. Bush also spoke volumes.
When the First Couple had guests to the White House, Valdez would sometimes photograph them in the private residence.
“I’d walk in… I’d see her take her glasses off, and I’d take some pictures,” Valdez said. “And when I saw the glasses come back on, it was done.”
“You just knew,” he said.
Valdez says his association with the famous family will leave a lasting impression on his heart, and hopefully on the hearts of people across the nation.
“That legacy of Barbara Bush will live on forever and ever,” Valdez said.
Funeral services are scheduled for Saturday in Houston.