George H.W. Bush and Wife Barbara Continually Mourned Death of 3-Year-Old Daughter

The death of George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara's daughter Robin was a tragedy that affected the late president and First Lady throughout their lives.

In a letter written to the 41st president's mother in the 1950s published by The Washington Post following his death at 94 Saturday, George H.W. Bush wrote of his longing for a daughter in the home he shared with his wife and four sons — George W., Jeb, Marvin and Neal.

"The running, pulsating restlessness of the four boys as they struggle to learn and grow — needs a counterpart," he wrote. "We need some starched crisp frocks to go with all our torn-kneed blue jeans and helmets. We need some soft blond hair to offset those crew cuts. We need a doll house to stand firm against our forts and rackets and thousand baseball cards."

He continued, "We need a girl."

The Bushes once had that little girl in their life, Pauline Robinson "Robin" Bush. But when the 3-year-old began to complain in 1953 that she felt tired, doctors told the Bushes that their daughter had a terminal leukemia diagnosis.

"Her advice was to tell no one, go home, forget that Robin was sick, make her as comfortable as we could, love her — and let her gently slip away," Barbara Bush wrote in her 1994 memoir, the Post reported. "She said this would happen very quickly."

After seven months in the hospital, receiving regular bone marrow tests and blood transfusions, the little girl succumbed to her illness, leaving the future president and his wife devastated.

The couple would, six years later, welcome another daughter, Dorothy, into their family, but the family never fully recovered from the loss.

On Thursday, George H.W. Bush's surviving children honored their father during the ceremony in which he was buried between Robin and his wife at the Texas A&M University presidential library. Son George W. Bush tearfully said that his father was finally at rest with two of the most important people in his life.

"And in our grief," George W. Bush said in his eulogy for his father Wednesday, "let us smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding mom's hand again."


Photo credit: NBC