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Bush wants world to 'put harps back in the closet'

Erin Mulvane, Express-News
Updated 11:35 pm, Thursday, December 27, 2012

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  • President George H.W. Bush will be remembered for Gulf War I, "Read my lips: No new taxes," the North American Free Trade Agreement and the first official presidential pardon of a Thanksgiving turkey, among other things, while First Lady Barbara Bush will be remembered for her tireless efforts to promote literacy. Here are some photos of the pair visiting the Alamo City, before, during and after George Bush's presidency.

PHOTO: The first lady and president pose in front of the Majestic Theater on Feb. 27, 1992, before a state dinner as part of a seven-nation drug summit taking place in San Antonio. Photo: Doug Mills, Associated Press File Photo / AP
    President George H.W. Bush will be remembered for Gulf War I, "Read my lips: No new taxes," the North American Free Trade Agreement and the first official presidential pardon of a Thanksgiving turkey, among other things, while First Lady Barbara Bush will be remembered for her tireless efforts to promote literacy. Here are some photos of the pair visiting the Alamo City, before, during and after George Bush's presidency.

    PHOTO: The first lady and president pose in front of the Majestic Theater on Feb. 27, 1992, before a state dinner as part of a seven-nation drug summit taking place in San Antonio. Photo: Doug Mills, Associated Press File Photo

 

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Former President George H.W. Bush's chief of staff Thursday sought to tamp down any speculation that he is near death, saying Bush would encourage family and friends to “put the harps back in the closet.”

The 41st president has been in Methodist Hospital in Houston for more than a month, and is now on a liquid diet in the intensive care unit with a fever described as “stubborn.”

His chief of staff, Jean Becker, told family and friends in an email that Bush, 88, “has every intention of staying put.” She said the health care he's receiving is “unequaled.”

Bush was admitted to Methodist with a cough Nov. 23. On Wednesday, Jim McGrath, Bush's spokesman in Houston, said he'd been in the ICU since the weekend and remained in “guarded condition” with an elevated fever.

In her email Thursday, Becker said McGrath's statement had prompted inquiries from “most of the civilized world.”

“Is he sick? Yes. Does he plan to go anywhere soon? No,” Becker wrote. “He has every intention of staying put. He would ask me to tell you to please 'put the harps back in the closet.'”

Becker said the family was resisting releasing a statement because they prefer to deal with health issues privately. Bush “is so beloved we knew everyone would overreact,” Becker wrote.

Her email continued, “Will he be in the hospital for a while? Yes. He is 88 years old, he had a terrible case of bronchitis which then triggered a series of complications.”

Bush has been battling a fever since last week. Although McGrath described the situation as frustrating, he said Bush is alert, has been engaging in “running banter” with his nurses, and is surrounded by family.

In February, it was reported that Bush had been diagnosed with lower body parkinsonism, a condition that causes instability from the waist down. As a result, he mostly uses a wheelchair.

On Nov. 7, he was admitted to the hospital for a lingering bronchitis-like cough and was discharged Nov. 19. He was readmitted the day after Thanksgiving when the cough persisted.

Bush spent Christmas Day in the hospital with his wife, Barbara, and several family members who live in Houston.

Bush was born in Milton, Mass., on June 12, 1924. His father, Prescott Sheldon Bush, was an investment banker who became a Republican senator from Connecticut, serving from 1952 to 1963. His mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, came from a St. Louis investment banking family.

Bush enlisted in the Navy when he was 18 and was a naval aviator in World War II. At 24, he moved to Texas with his wife.

The oldest living former president, Bush is also a former vice president, congressman and CIA director. He served as president from 1989 to 1993.

He achieved notoriety in retirement for skydiving on at least three of his birthdays.

Becker ended her email to family and friends thanking them for their love and support.

“Is there anything you can do? Yes, of course. Keep him and the family in your prayers. I am thinking heaven has not seen such a barrage of prayer intentions since 'It's a Wonderful Life,'” she wrote.

erin.mulvaney@chron.com