When you ask Robert Caltabiano what he remembers about former First Lady Barbara Bush, he’ll immediately tell you that it was how she was a mother figure to everyone around her.
“The biggest thing to get across to everybody out there is that we in the Secret Service are tasked to protect [the Bush family], but in many ways, when you’re around Mrs. Bush, you feel like she’s protecting you,” he said.
Caltabiano served on the U.S. Secret Service detail for former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush.
“I’m forever grateful for her for treating us like we’re family,” he said. “She didn’t have to do that.”
What sticks with Caltabiano after many years are the moments where Bush was there to guide him – whether it was a reminder to be frugal or the time when she helped him pick out a set of pearls for his mother while they were traveling in Beijing.
“I knew nothing about pearls and here was Mrs. Bush, saying ‘this is a good set of pearls'” and also helping me bargain for the right price for those pearls,” he said.
Former first ladies Barbara and Laura Bush joined LBJ Foundation President and CEO Mark
Updegrove for a conversation at the LBJ Presidential Library six years ago and shared their experiences about the White House.
Updegrove calls Bush a “bright point of light on the American landscape.”
“She believed that if every child was taught to read, we’d live in a better country,” he said. “It’s hard to argue that.”
The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy said the organization has historically supported Aspire Family Literacy and the Austin Learning Academy within Central Texas.
Several Texas leaders also shared their condolences:
“She was as much a public servant as her husband and children: traveling the world as advisor and ambassador, campaigning for adult literacy programs at home, and, of course, making George Senior eat his broccoli. Standing beside him through Congress, the UN, the CIA, and 12 years at the White House, Mrs. Bush approached her public role with a class and grace seldom matched in our nation’s capital.” – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
“Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to President George H.W. Bush and the entire Bush family during this difficult time. We ask that all Texans join us in keeping them in their thoughts and prayers as they mourn the passing of a devoted wife, mother, and public servant.” – Gov. Greg Abbott
“Eternally devoted to her faith, family, and country, her legacy in promoting literacy will live on in the families she touched and young minds she helped cultivate. Sandy and I join Texans and the nation in prayer for the entire Bush family tonight.” – Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas