The Grapevine: Remembering a Meeting with the Late President George H. W. Bush

By Rosalyn Queen Alonso on December 06, 2018 from The Grapevine via

When I woke up the other morning and turned on my IPad, as I usually do first thing in the morning, I was saddened to see that we had lost President George H. W. Bush. My career has afforded me the opportunity to meet many people and President Bush was one of them. 
In 1981, while working for the Italian Festival, I was talking with Senator Byrd and asked him what the possibility might be of getting the then-President Reagan to visit our Festival.  He thought the chances were slim but said he could arrange for us to present an invitation to then-Vice President Bush. 
I was excited about this opportunity and I encouraged Senator to move forward with arrangements.  Several days later his office contacted me and said that we would be able to visit the Vice President but would need to get the group of Festival representatives approved in advance. I immediately contacted the Festival board chairman and it was agreed that Frank Iaquinta, John Manchin and Sam Chico (all three who were founders of our Festival) and I would attend. 
In addition, our Festival Queen at the time, Connie Chico Merandi, would attend and my son Mike Queen would go with us to take photos.
We were all cleared by the White House security and arrangements were made for us to meet in Senator Byrd's office when we arrived in Washington, DC.  Senator Byrd would then accompany us to the Vice President's Office.
Prior to leaving for our nation’s capital, our Festival Board decided that we would present him with a set of engraved wine glasses and an engraved invitation. We all met in Clarksburg on the arranged day and drove together to Washington, DC.
When we arrived at Senator Byrd's office where we were greeted by him and his staff.  We went to the underground transportation system and travelled to a garage where a limousine was waiting to transport us to the White House.  We were greeted there by security and escorted to the Vice President's office.
His staff welcomed us and took us to the Vice President’s office, where he was waiting for us.  After introductions we had an informal ceremony and Sam Chico read the invitation to him and Connie presented him with the gift of glasses.  After the ceremony he took us on a tour of his office, taking us out on the patio and showing us the wonderful view, he had of Washington.
Back inside the office Mr. Bush took us to his desk and pulled out the middle drawer and showed us the signatures of all the Vice Presidents who had used the desk.  A tradition started many years ago.
He then presented us with engraved gifts. Things like a golf ball and cuff links.  Our visit was over, and we returned to the Senator's Office before making plans to return to Clarksburg.
My thoughts on this gentle man was his sincerity and kind matter in which he treated us. A friend of mine in Clarksburg upon learning that we were going to Washington said to me you will be so impressed at how handsome he is in person. Now that I think about it I must have been like a teenage girl probably staring at his good looks. I think that cameras were not fair to him.
I had the opportunity to meet him one more time after he became President.  I was representing the Columbus Foundation at a Flight Ceremony at Kitty Hawk and he was the keynote speaker.  It was an outdoor ceremony and there was a flyover of airplanes.  I was so impressed but when I looked at him I felt his love and pride of airplanes.  After the ceremony I had the opportunity to speak with him and mentioned our previous visit.  When I mentioned Senator Byrd, I truly think that he remembered us.
I was very proud to say that George Herbert Walker Bush was my President and that he epitomized the honor and respect that this office carries.  Sometimes I think that we forget this. May he rest in peace with his wife, Barbara.
The Christmas season is upon us and I urge you to get in the spirit by attending the events planned at the Robinson Grand.  We must support the programming there for the theatre to succeed.
The Progressive Women's association will be having a Holiday Appreciation luncheon to thank the many businesses and individuals who support them throughout the year on December 14. This is free, and reservations just be made by calling 304 624 6881.
Take care, keep in touch and until next week "Now You Have Heard It Through the Grapevine."


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