By Brenda Koopsen SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Today was a day of mourning as America honored the passing of the life of the longest-lived president to date. George H. W. Bush was laid to rest in College Station, Texas, surrounded by loved ones honoring his legacy. For one man though, the connection to the President runs deep as he recalled the fondest memories of the President, and his time serving under his administration.
SU professor Sean O’Keefe worked in George H. W. Bush’s administration at the Pentagon as Comptroller and CFO at the Defense Department, and later as the Secretary of the Navy. For him, Bush was President, but he was also a family man, a baseball lover and an encouraging friend.
“A knowledge that all of us had that he wasn’t asking anybody or expecting anybody to do anything less than what he would do himself,” said O’Keefe. “And boy that was a pretty daunting because he was prepared to do whatever it took.”
O’Keefe served as NASA administrator under his son, George W. Bush. O’Keefe recalled the day after they lost Space Shuttle Columbia, George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, drove themselves to the space center just to see if there was anything they could do.
“Nobody asked him to do that…nobody said it’d be really nice if you would,” explained O’Keefe. “He just instinctively knew that that would be something that would maybe help a little bit.”
O’Keefe and Bush didn’t just talk policy, he got to see a side of President 41 most people never got to see. O’Keefe recalled meeting Bush for a World Series Houston Astros game.
“He sat there and talked about everything under the sun,” remembered O’Keefe. “And then he’d talk about whether they should trade so and so, or something else oughta be coming in, or why they aren’t stepping in…He made you feel like you were just sitting there talking to a good friend.
O’Keefe described Bush as a family man who gave the impression that “there’s nothing so important that you shouldn’t otherwise be aware of what you’re family’s involved in too.”
When asked about the kind of advice Bush would give for future leaders, he said it would be to “be kind to each other and do the right thing, do everything you possibly can in order to make a situation better than the way you found it.”