- Tim Tower
On November 30th, I was informed by a newsroom in New York City that former President George H. B. Bush had passed away. I wasn’t supposed to mention this until the news broke. It broke a day later. A couple months earlier I was told that he was in hospice. I didn’t dispute this news only because I knew he was in pretty rough shape. I never did check this fact out. So I never said anything. Only a short time earlier, his daughter, Doro, told my sister, Meg, that he would never be coming to Barnacle Billy’s again.
The former President passed the day before my wife, Deb, and I were to head down to the Caribbean for our annual “short vacation” which ends up lasting a little more than two weeks. I didn’t have the tools to edit this web site down there even though I wanted to write about President Bush and what he meant to me, our family and Barnacle Billy’s. And I did get a couple of emails. One seemed to be dunning me because I wasn’t on the ball enough to mention it right away But there is no time certain when these things are going to happen. And I certainly didn’t want to jinx the man by preparing a missive on his life when he hadn’t passed yet. So now I write.
I first met Vice President George Bush in 1980, at sea, around Boon Island, eight miles from Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine. I was taking passengers bluefishing on my charter boat, the Mary E. We talked boat to boat about the fishing and where might the best place be where he could have fishing success. I saw him a few more times before he became President. The first time I shook his hand was in Barnacle Billy’s. I don’t remember the date. But I had a wonderful first impression. That impression never wavered through the years. Indeed, it flourished and I developed a stronger connection with the man. It was easy. He was so gracious, easy to talk to, humble to an extent and very direct. I also learned that he never said anything that he didn’t mean. And that was tested early on when he told me that he would like to invite our whole family over to their compound in Kennebunkport. I deal with so many people every year. Ninety-nine percent of people who say something like this never come through. So I thought to myself; “An invitation to his compound? That will be the day!” A week later, we received the invitation. My father, Billy, my mother, my sisters and brother, my wife, all went. It was a wonderful time.
I’ve only met two people in life who made me feel like I was the most important person in the room. One person was my father. The other was former President George H. W. Bush. That night, in his front yard, with probably 200 hundred other guests, he took me aside and made me feel like I was something special. I’ll never forget it. It was a very personal conversation. And it wasn’t the last time it happened. And I’m sure this was part of the definition of the man. I wasn’t the most important person on his property. But I thought that probably everybody else was having the same experience. They too were made to feel that they were the most important person or couple there. It was a quality that probably helped him become the successful man that he was.
He spent many times at Barnacle Billy’s after he stepped away from the presidency. And there are many many good memories that I have of situations with him, conversations I had and things he did that I hope I will never forget. I’ve always thought that good memories are truly the real spice of life. There has never been a bad one when it concerns any of the Bush Family, I’m happy to say.
The first day he ate at Barnacle Billy’s, my father offered to pay for his meal. The former President calmly stood up, walked away from the table, put his arm on my father’s shoulder and thanked him as he led my father away from the others. He stopped a distance away. “Billy,” he said “If you pay for our meal I won’t be able to come back here again.” I think this surprised my father until he had time to think about it. A moment later my father said; “Well, can we treat your Secret Service?” “Billy”, George said, “You can do anything you want with the Secret Service.” So that’s the way it went when the former President came to eat with us. The President would pay for his family and guests. We would treat the Secret Service. We weren’t even allowed to take money or a credit card from any of the former President’s guests. George insisted on always paying.
I was saddened when former First Lady Barbara Bush passed on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. We learned about it later in the day. Two years earlier I thought she would out-live her husband. But things went south with her faster than I thought possible. And I was concerned about her husband because he was having health issues of his own at the time of her passing. Doro told me last spring that they were going to try to get their father to the restaurant. I kept waiting but it never happened. The year before, the summer of 2017, was the last time I saw the former President.
In the end, I was asked if I mourned the President’s death. That’s not an easy question for me to answer. I feel very sorry for myself that I will never see the man again. I liked every aspect of the man as a person, as the leader of the free world, as a fisherman and as a friend. Every time I saw him he would ask me; “Hey, Tim. How’s the fishing?” I will miss that. I feel in my heart that his passing was all for the best. I don’t really believe that he would have wanted to live any longer. At 94 years of age, physically incapacitated, how much more can you ask? So I’m relieved of his having peace. Yet this feeling of loss persists. The man gave me much in the form of memories, as I mentioned. His political career should be lauded by those who understand that it’s not so much what you believe but the enlightenment of ideas that can be debated for a brighter future. That his hard work and the way he presented his beliefs should be a book that everyone can reference. I believe he was the most prepared individual to ever serve the presidency. It was made for him. As a family man, he was the same leader, a person you could look to as a good example. This is reflected in all his children and their children. So, yes, I miss him. But it was time. And he has left many wonderful people behind both genetically and influentially.
When he came to Barnacle Billy’s, he always sat at the flag pole table on the deck overlooking Perkins Cove. I will never in my life ever walk by that table without thinking of George Bush, the man, Barbara, and their family. I will remember all the wonderful experiences and business that he brought here. George H. W. Bush gave me (us) a lot. His way will never be forgotten. His place will never be taken. And his memory will certainly be one of the highlights that I will cherish all my life, forever.