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A look back at Barbara and George H.W. Bush's epic love story

Barbara Bush, former first lady of George H.W. Bush, died Tuesday at 92. The couple's love story spanned nearly eight decades. When asked what the secret to their enduring love was, Barbara said it was keeping a sense of humor. 

George Herbert Walker Bush and Barbara Pierce met in 1941 at a school dance. He was 17. She was just 16. He told a friend she was the most beautiful girl on the dance floor. Barbara was just 19 when she married her Navy pilot, home on leave from World War II, reports CBS News' Jim Axelrod.  

"I married the first man I ever kissed," Barbara used to say. "When I tell this to my children, they just about throw up."

And while they did their best to keep pace with modern life over the next 73 years, the two remained an old-fashioned love story.

"I fell in love with him practically at first sight, probably. Went home and told my mother about him. She should have been the head of the CIA. She knew everything about him the next morning. But he's just a – he's a very giving, he's never once said 'no' to me," Barbara said.

The two exchanged love letters throughout their relationship. They shared one from 1943 on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Former Bush aide recalls Barbara Bush as "the rock of that family" 05:49

"I love you, precious, with all my heart and to know you love me, means my life. How often have I thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you," George read aloud. "I still feel the same way."

They were married longer than any couple in presidential history. At times, Barbara polled 40 points higher than her husband, and she used her capital to support him – fiercely.

"You make me feel wonderful, but then I always feel wonderful when I get to talk about the strongest, the most decent, the most caring, the wisest, yes, and the healthiest man I know," she said at the 1992 Republican National Convention.

Their six kids produced the widest range of parental emotions imaginable: watching one son become president, another the governor of Florida, and burying a daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia at the age of three. Through it all, Poppy and Bar – as they called each other – celebrated and endured together.

"The way I describe it is they can be at a dinner table. And they can look at each other and they're talking to one another without saying a word," their son, Jeb Bush, once said. "That's what happens when you're--" 

"When you're in love," Barbara finished. 

Barbara watched her husband's back, kept his feet firmly planted on the ground, and even to the very end of their long, loving marriage made sure to hold his hand.

That love letter George shared with Oprah was written to his then-fiancé on the same day that their engagement announcement was published in the newspaper. In it, the former president also writes "Bar, you have made my life full of everything I could ever dream of – my complete happiness should be a token of my love for you."

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