Houston paused to honor and celebrate former first lady Barbara Bush’s life and legacy in the days after she died April 17.
Mayor Sylvester Turner and other area political and civic leaders were joined by prominent clergy two days later on April 19 for a memorial service on the steps of City Hall.
The service, both somber and celebratory, merged fond and admiring personal memories with one of Mrs. Bush’s most fervent priorities: literacy.
Throughout the day, before and after the memorial, thousands of people circulated around the lawn and reflecting pool before City Hall, and also across the street at the Houston Public Library’s Jesse H. Jones Building.
Fittingly, the thruway between the Jones central library building and the historic Julia Ideson Building was named the Barbara Bush Literacy Plaza in late 2016.
Mrs. Bush was America’s first lady during her husband George H.W. Bush’s term as 41st president from 1989-1993, and was mother of 43rd president George W. Bush. But Mayor Turner said she was still “Houston’s first lady.”
The library pavilion, now nearly vacant, will one day have structures and spaces the fulfill Mrs. Bush’s passion for literacy.
Plans call for it to be a physical focal point for literacy with the George H.W. and Barbara Bush Children’s Reading Garden, a puppet theater, community art lawn, outdoor dining area, literacy lounge, the George H.W. and Barbara Bush Adult Reading Garden, the Janice and Robert C. McNair Performance Stage, and the Phillips 66 Company jumbo video screen on an exterior wall of the Jesse Jones Building.
In earlier remarks, Turner said: “We knew the space between the Julia Ideson Building and the Central Library needed to be vibrant and inspiring.
It was in envisioning this enriching space for people of all ages, that we thought of Mrs. Bush and asked to name it in her honor. I cannot think of anyone who is more deserving of this honor.”
Mrs. Bush’s funeral was April 21 at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, where the Bushes considered their spiritual home for decades and where thousands of mourners and admirers paid their respects at a public viewing the day before.
She is buried on the grounds at the George H.W. Bush presidential library at Texas A&M University.