President Bush remembered in Delaware as ‘a kind and compassionate leader’

Delaware Gov. Mike Castle with President George H.W. Bush at a campaign rally in Seaford in 1992.

DOVER — Former President George H.W. Bush was remembered by many in Delaware on Saturday as a true leader whose kindness to others should serve as an example to all.

President Bush, the 41st president of the United States, died late Friday at the age of 94 following several months of declining health.

“He was a true public servant who dedicated his life to our country — as a decorated Navy pilot in World War II, as a representative for the people of Texas, as a diplomat, as a leader in our intelligence community, as Vice President and as our President,” U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said. “He loved this country. He believed in our institutions and in the strength of the American spirit. And he exemplified what it truly means to be a leader.”

Dover City Councilman David Anderson said President Bush led an exemplary life.

“President George H.W. Bush was a great American who stood for freedom here and around the world,” Councilman Anderson said. “He exemplified the greatness of my father’s generation in his personal and professional life.

‘He oversaw the orderly collapse of the Soviet Union. He stood for the right to life. He stood up for minorities and the disabled. He appointed quality jurists. He stood for a kinder, gentler America. He was a fine Christian who lived the faith.”

Gov. John Carney ordered the United States and Delaware flags to be flown at half staff on Saturday until sunset on Sunday, Dec. 30, following President Trump’s proclamation to lower the flags and declaring Dec. 5 a National Day of Mourning.

“In remembrance of former President George H.W. Bush and in concurrence with the President’s proclamation, I’ve ordered the United States and Delaware flags at state buildings and facilities be flown at half-staff,” Gov. Carney said. “As per the President’s proclamation and pursuant to U.S. Code (4 U.S.C. 7m) the flags are to be flown at half-staff for a period of 30 days from the death of the former president.”

George H.W. Bush was the father of George W. Bush, who went on to serve as the country’s 43rd President from 2001 to 2009.

He is survived by his five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, eight great grandchildren and two siblings. He was preceded in death by his wife of 73 years, Barbara.

“President Bush led a great American life, one that combined and personified two of our Nation’s greatest virtues: an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to public service,” President Trump said in a presidential proclamation. “Our country will greatly miss his inspiring example.

“It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of one of America’s greatest points of light, the death of President George H.W. Bush.”

The former President’s reach touched Delaware on numerous occasions.

Sol Knopf, a musician from Dover whose father, Aaron, was Dover’s mayor, remembers vividly one such visit by Mr. Bush for a political rally in 1992.

Mayor Knopf officially welcomed President Bush to Dover for the rally and Constantine Malmberg had called Sol Knopf the night before to ask if he would sing at the event.

While he said it was the thrill of a lifetime to get a chance to perform in front of President Bush, things didn’t exactly go smoothly that day.

“I was thrilled and honored,” Mr. Knopf said. “I stayed up most of the evening learning some patriotic songs on the keyboard to accompany myself. The day of the event I showed up with all of my PA gear since there was no PA for me to plug into.

“I was wearing a nasty sweatshirt, sneakers and blue jeans for the unload and brought a nice suit and tie to change into.”

It seemed like a good plan at the time, however, things suddenly unraveled for the young singer.

“Unfortunately, after the secret service and dogs did their scan of the area … I couldn’t leave to go change clothes. In addition, there was nowhere to plug in the PA. I was mortified. I finally ended up singing ‘America The Beautiful’ acapella from the stage in totally inappropriate clothes.

“Somehow no one seemed to care but me. What a day that was and a thrill for our family. I remember my mother saying how President Bush was much more handsome in person. He was a kind and gracious man. Rest in peace Mr. President and thank you for your service to our great country.”

Former Dover Mayor Aaron Knopf meets former President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Dover resident Tom Dennis kept his eyes focused on the news programs on Saturday morning as they remembered President Bush’s life.

“I pretty much agree with the body of opinions I’ve heard all day,” Mr. Dennis said. “President Bush was a great man and a fine leader. I voted for him twice and was very distressed when he lost in (19)92.”

Former President George W. Bush released a statement from the family on Friday.

“George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for,” he said. “The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”

Sen. Carper said that Washington, D.C., could use a few more men like George H.W. Bush in the political arena right now.

“President George H.W. Bush was a good man who treated others with kindness and respect – regardless of their politics,” said Sen. Carper. “We could all learn from the example he set, and we could use more like him right now, on both sides of the aisle.

“There will be much more that I will want to say about President Bush’s legacy in the days and weeks to come as we honor his memory.

“For now, Martha and I send our sincerest condolences to the Bush family and pray that President George H.W. Bush may rest in peace.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said that President Bush “was an example to us all.”

“Few U.S. Presidents have faced the momentous shifts in geopolitics faced by President George Herbert Walker Bush,” Sen. Coons said. “From the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany to nuclear non-proliferation agreements with the Soviet Union and the Persian Gulf War, President Bush advanced American interests and values.

“He dedicated his life to public service. His service as a Navy pilot in World War II, U.S. Congressman, Ambassador to the U.N. and to China, director of the CIA, Vice President, and as our 41st President, as well as his lifelong commitment to volunteerism and service all demonstrate his dedication to and love for our country. I send my most heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the entire Bush family.”

He added, “I hope that the character and pragmatism with which President Bush lived his life returns to American politics.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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