Flags across Kennebunkport were flying at half-mast Saturday morning. TV crews filled the parking area overlooking Walker’s Point, the Bush compound there. And visitors arrived at the Bush’s nearby Episcopal church, St. Ann’s, to pay their respects.

The church is not normally open this time of year, but sexton Reggie Sargent said people showed up when Barbara Bush died earlier this year as well so he was prepared to open the doors.

“I thought we should do the same for George,” Sargent said.

Kennebunkport was already filled with tourists and visitors for the annual Christmas prelude celebration which turned into a memorial, instead.

Elsewhere across the state, President George H. W. Bush was remembered as a philanthropist, politician and friend by residents of Maine who reacted to the news of the death of the 41st president just six months after the death of his wife, Barbara, after 73 years of marriage.

The Bushes, who have kept a summer compound in Kennebunkport for generations where marriages and other family celebrations regularly take place, were active in the state as philanthropists and neighbors.

Senator Susan Collins called Bush courageous and compassionate in a statement issued Saturday morning:

“As a Navy aviator in World War II, in Congress, as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Vice President, and President, George H.W. Bush consistently and vigorously demonstrated the values that are the anchor of American society,” Collins wrote. Courage, duty, honor, and compassion define our nation and his life. As he encouraged Americans to be a “thousand points of light” through service to others, he shone the brightest.

“These values were also demonstrated by his First Lady, Barbara, his devoted partner for 73 wonderful years. As we recall what President and Mrs. Bush gave to our nation, we also reflect upon what we have lost.”

Sen. Angus King also issued a statement Saturday morning, saying, “Former President George H.W. Bush was a statesman and a leader, a man of dedication and dignity who served his nation in the military, in Congress, and in the White House.

“Throughout his lifetime of service, President Bush left his mark on our entire nation – but his loss will be felt even more acutely in Maine, the home of his beloved Walker’s Point.

“For all his achievements, President Bush remained humble, kind, and warm. Like so many Maine people, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with President Bush during some of his trips to Kennebunkport – and like all who have had that opportunity, I will forever cherish the time we were able to share. His passing leaves a great hole in our nation and in our state; he will be deeply missed. During this sad time, Mary and I are keeping his family – especially his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – in our thoughts.”

Governor-elect Janet Mills issued a statement saying “America has lost a hero and Maine has lost a friend.”

Gov. Paul LePage described Bush as an “unwavering supporter” of Maine and directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half staff for 30 days to honor Bush’s memory.

“We shall keep the Bush family in our hearts at this difficult time. On behalf of the people of Maine, we send our deepest condolences. Know that President Bush’s life and legacy of public service will be an eternal source of hope and inspiration for the people of Maine and around the world,” the governor said. “America has lost a true gentle-man.”

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said that Bush “led our nation with integrity and inspired future generations to dedicate their lives to public service just as he did.”

“The diplomacy and decency he brought to the Presidency will forever be valued and remembered. President Bush and his wife, Barbara, treasured their time in Maine and our state takes special pride in how much time they enjoyed here,” she said in her statement.

Former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and her husband, former Gov. John R. McKernan Jr., issued a joint statement calling Bush an icon of public service and leader of unwavering strength.

“History will record how President Bush guided America through, and helped shape, numerous transformational events – from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the triumph of Operation Desert Storm,” Snowe and McKernan said. “He commanded the helm of the greatest nation on earth and steered it through the rough waters of change, uncertainty and challenge and, in so doing, personified what a president and a commander-in-chief should be.”

In Maine, Rich Petersen, president and chief executive officer of Maine Medical Center, of which the Bushes were major benefactors, said in an interview that the Bushes are a special family.

“He was an American treasure in many ways,” Peterson said. “The words that come to mind are kindness, civility, family, a patriot for sure. Their family not only opened up their hearts to Maine Medical Center, they shared personal treasure with our organization. The one solace I try to share is he is once again united with Mrs. Bush which I am sure will be an interesting reunion.”

The Maine Republican party released a statement that read in part:

“This is a sorrowful day for Maine. Words can’t express how much President Bush meant to us. His life of public service is an example to all of us who strive to give back. His dedication to the American idea should be a beacon to all who benefit from the freedom and opportunity America protects and provides.”
 

Former President George H.W. Bush stands with his wife, Barbara, during the National Anthem before a Portland Sea Dogs game at Hadlock Field in Portland.

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