HOUSTON (CBS NEWS) -- Onetime First Lady Barbara Bush, the wife of former President George H.W. Bush and mother of former President George W. Bush, has died at her home in Houston at the age of 92.
Her passing was confirmed in a statement released by the office of George H.W. Bush.
The former first lady was said to be in grave health last weekend and wouldn't seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday.
"Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors, Mrs. Bush, now age 92, has decided not to seek additional medical treatment and will instead focus on comfort care," spokesman Jim McGrath said in a news release.
McGrath did not elaborate as to the nature of Bush's health problems. She has been treated for decades for Graves' disease, which is a thyroid condition.
"It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others," McGrath said. "She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving."
Bush is one of only two first ladies who was also the mother of a president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.
Her husband's election as the 41st President elevated the plain-spoken, faux-pearl wearing, distant relative of President Franklin Pierce to First Lady from January 20, 1989 to January 20, 1993. Aware that she was not elected and carried no official duties, Mrs. Bush instructed her staff: "Each day we should do something to help others."
So along with the endless entertaining and public ceremonies, she went to soup kitchens, homeless shelters and senior centers. She participated in events supporting worthy causes from veterans' hospitals, to teen pregnancy programs and the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Notably at the time, Mrs. Bush visited facilities for AIDS victims, held infected babies and hugged adults.In so doing, she helped erase the stigma of that disease, and encouraged her husband's administration to increase funding for AIDS research and treatment. Mrs. Bush also came to the rescue of the Salvation Army in 1989, when several Washington, D.C. area malls decided to ban the Army's red kettle bellringers
claiming they were a nuisance to Christmas shoppers.
Outraged, the First Lady made a very public trip to a local mall that was allowing the bell-ringers, and dropped $10 into the red kettle. That ended the ban then and there.
But Barbara Bush's signature cause was literacy, a passion that began during the 1980s when statistics showed that 35 million U.S. adults could not read above the eighth-grade level – while 23 million were at or below fourth-grade proficiency. Inspired by business leaders like publisher Harold McGraw, public officials like Gov. Jim Edgar of Illinois, and other literacy advocates across the country, Mrs. Bush
quickly came to believe that, in her words, "if more people could read or write, we could be much closer to solving so many other problems that our country faces."
Furthermore, she recognized the vital importance of family literacy – ensuring literacy programs were accessible to help struggling parents and children so they would have an equal chance to succeed in life.
Her literacy advocacy gradually expanded with her public profile. During her husband's vice-presidential years, for example, she unveiled billboards, visited Head Start and Even Start classes, supported alternative school programs for at-risk students like Cities in Schools, wrote dozens of articles, and participated in a variety of media programs to raise awareness of the basic need for every citizen to be able to read. In 1984, Mrs. Bush also published C. Fred's Story: A Dog's Life, which raised $100,000 for Literacy Volunteers of America and Laubach Literacy Action.
Then starting as First Lady in 1989, Mrs. Bush took the family literacy movement to a new level of national awareness when she launched the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, focusing simultaneously on early childhood education for preschoolers and adult literacy for their parents. In 1990, she published a second book, Millie's Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush, which sold more than 300,000
copies in its first year and raised nearly $900,000 for her new foundation. She also began Mrs. Bush's Story Time, a national radio program that stressed the importance of reading aloud to children.
In 1991, Mrs. Bush and other advocates celebrated the passage of the National Literacy Act, which created the National Institute for Literacy and permitted the use of libraries and other municipal property as evening literacy centers for adults.
After leaving Washington, Mrs. Bush continued to volunteer her time to worthy causes and help others. Her Foundation for Family Literacy, from which she stepped aside in 2012, has raised and awarded over $110 million to create or expand family literacy programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
She also served as AmeriCares ambassador-at-large; a Mayo Clinic Foundation board member; and a supporter of organizations including the Leukemia Society of America, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Boys & Girls Club of America.
She is survived by her husband of 73 years, President George H. W. Bush; five children and their spouses; 17 grandchildren; seven great
grandchildren; and her brother, Scott Pierce. She was preceded in death by her second child, Pauline Robinson "Robin" Bush, and her siblings Martha Rafferty and James R. Pierce.
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