Upon learning today (Dec. 1) of the death of President George H.W. Bush, a lot of pleasant memories have come to mind. I had the honor of serving as the Vernon County chairman for George H.W. Bush the first time he ran for president in 1980. I was living in Coon Valley at the time. The stories about what a kind and gentle man he was are true. I first met him in La Crosse, and I believe it was around December of 1979. He had just given a short speech outlining why he was running for president, and I asked him if I could take his picture. He said, "Just a minute, I'll have one of my aids take a picture of the both of us, you never know, someday lightening might strike, and then you'll have a nice picture!" I met him again at several campaign rallies in 1980.
After Ronald Reagan became the nominee, I was appointed Vernon County co-chairman of the Reagan/Bush Campaign Committee. In October of 1980, I was sent to Milwaukee where vice presidential nominee Bush was the headliner at a banquet. Before the meal, there was a private reception for donors of $2,000 to get there picture taken with Bush and an autograph. I didn't attend because I didn't have $2,000 and I already had my picture for free. I had a sheet of George Bush for President stationary along from the campaign, so I slipped that to Janet Schipper from Viroqua who was sitting beside Bush at the head table. Mr. Bush wrote me a message on the stationary and waved at me. That didn't cost me anything either, so I always felt I had a very good evening.
I shook hands with President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush at the American Legion National Convention in 2001 in San Antonio, Texas. I told President Bush that I also shook his dad's hand, and he said, "then you shook a darn good hand!".
The last time I heard from President George H.W. Bush was in April of 2017. I had sent him a letter in February telling him how much I enjoyed seeing him and Barbara on TV at the Super Bowl in February. I really didn't expect a response, but was pleasantly surprised when he did.
Frank Mathison, La Crosse