Siouxlander reflects on decades long friendship with former President George H.W. Bush
Mourners from across the nation are expected to attend President George H.W. Bush's funeral in Washington on Wednesday, but a Siouxland man will be at a more private ceremony for Bush in Houston on Thursday.
That's thanks to a decades-long friendship that all started with a speech right here in Northwest Iowa.
It's a friendship that first developed through common acquaintances when George Wittgraf attended a banquet Bush was speaking at.
Wittgraf said, "I met him and visited with him after the dinner speech he gave that evening in Denison. At that point he asked me if I were willing to be his state campaign chairman for the 1979-1980 Presidential Campaign."
It's a position Wittgraf accepted and the work began right away for the pair, but also their friendship started to grow.
"He campaigned a great deal in Iowa in 1979 and early 1980 and I was with him for all of his campaign appearances so having just spent a lot of time together, we got to know one another pretty well," said Wittgraf.
After Bush left office, Wittgraf and the former president saw each other less and less over the years.
They managed to keep in touch nonetheless, with the former President being a notorious letter writer, the pair exchanged letters and Christmas cards every year.
Now in the wake of George H.W. Bush's death, his old friend from Iowa, reflects on what he thinks the 41st president's legacy might be.
Wittgraf said, "He was the last of the so called greatest generation, the World War II generation and I guess in my mind I look at George Herbert Walker Bush as one of the greatest of the greatest generation."
And for Wittgraf, his lasting memory of the 41st President will be his decency, even during his time in the "blood sport" that is politics.
"While politics is a harsh and tough undertaking, through all of that he was still a very decent and compassionate person and I guess that's what I'll remember as much as anything," said Wittgraf.
The funeral in Houston on Thursday is for close family friends.
Afterwards, Bush's body will be taken by train to College Station, Texas, to be buried at Bush's Presidential Library at Texas A&M University.