The passing of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush, less than eight months after the death of his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, means Maine will say goodbye to its most prominent summer residents.

But their legacy will live on through their philanthropy and civic engagement, as well as the many buildings in southern Maine that bear their name.

Perhaps the most well-known example is the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Built in 1995, it’s the state’s only dedicated children’s hospital and serves tens of thousands of patients each year.

In addition to their donations, the Bushes visited the hospital many times over the year, sometimes even as patients. Their daughter-in-law Margaret Bush is a member of the board of trustees.

“We were fortunate that former U.S. President George H.W. Bush considered Maine his home and that he shared many special occasions with us alongside his wife, Barbara Bush, here at the hospital,” said Rich Petersen, MMC’s president and CEO. “President Bush exemplified leadership, empathy and goodwill. The state of Maine, Maine Medical Center and The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital have lost a close and dear friend.”

Peterson said the couple donated to the hospital many times without ever publicizing it.

In 2008, building on a partnership with the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, the University of New England in Biddeford – not far up the coast from the Bushes’ summer home at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport – unveiled the George and Barbara Bush Center.

The center is part cafe, part meeting space and part museum to the Bushes, who visited the campus often.

“It’s been said that America will never know another generation like the one to which George H.W. Bush belonged,” said UNE President James D. Herbert. “At UNE, we came to know two people – President and Mrs. Bush – who epitomized the Greatest Generation. With his committed dedication to public service, good humor and unfailing optimism, President Bush inspired our students and staff.”

The cafe at the Bush Center is named Windward, and there is an authentic navy anchor at the entrance – a nod to the couple’s deep feeling that Maine’s coast was their “anchor to windward.”

UNE also created in 2010 the George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture Series, an annual event honoring their legacy as political and community leaders. The Bushes attended the lecture each year, prior to heading back to Texas for the winter, until failing health forced them to miss the event for the first time in 2016.

The Bushes also lent their support and time to two other health care facilities, Mercy Hospital in Portland and Southern Maine Health Care Medical Center in Biddeford.

“President Bush and his beloved wife, Barbara, were our strongest supporters and advocates for Gary’s House, Mercy’s hospitality home for the families of loved ones receiving care in area hospitals,” Mercy President Charlie Therrien said. “Their deep devotion to family and country extended to helping those in need in our community. Through their generosity, compassion, and kindness, they made life better for our patients and their families.”

At SMHC, the emergency department is named in memory of the president’s mother, Dorothy Walker Bush.

“The Bush family has summered on Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport for generations, and SMHC has had the privilege of caring for many of them over the years,” CEO Nate Howell said. “We are extremely grateful to President Bush and Mrs. Bush for the trust they placed in our caregivers, their generous support of SMHC and their friendship over many years.”

And even though President Bush largely stayed out of politics after leaving office, he and the first lady often opened their Kennebunkport home for fundraisers and other events for Republican candidates.

Barbara Bush reads to a group of children patients at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland during a visit by the former first lady in September 2003, when it was announced that the hospital planned a large addition. (Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald file)

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