BOSTON From his carefully coifed hair to his data-driven business principles to his unwavering devotion to his oft-maligned Mormon faith, Mitt Romney is the spitting image of his father physically, professionally and morally.
The depth of their bond can be seen in one early story.
At 18, Mitt Romney met a 15-year-old girl with whom he felt he could share his life. He then left for a year of college and a 2 1/2-year Mormon mission in France, during which time his father not only took his future wife, Ann Davies, to church, but converted her to their faith.
"Your gal looked lovely as always," George Romney wrote to his son in February 1967. "I sat next to her in church and asked if that ring of yours on her engagement finger meant what it usually means, and she said it did."
While the son was frustrated at getting doors slammed in his face as he tried to find converts in a heavily Catholic nation, the father was proud of the success in winning over not only Ann, raised an Episcopalian, but also her brother, Jim.
At the time, George Romney was governor of Michigan and former chairman of American Motors. Ann's father, Edward Davies, had a less lofty title as the part-time mayor of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where both families lived.
"This makes two converts here that are certainly yours, so don't worry about your difficulty in converting those Frenchmen," George Romney wrote to his son. "I am sure you can appreciate that Ann and Jim are worth a dozen of them, at least to us."
By the time Mitt returned in 1969, Ann's conversion was complete. Three months later the couple he was 22, she 19 married, first in a civil ceremony in Ann's home and the next day in the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City.
Today, Mitt Romney highlights his 38-year marriage, his five sons and the family life he's built with Ann as he runs for the Republican presidential nomination.
"My dad is my life hero," said Romney. "I probably would have never thought about politics, it would have never crossed my mind, had I not seen him do it. He's the real pioneer."
Asked recently to name his most treasured possession, Mitt Romney had a quick answer: A 1962 Rambler his sons gave him on his 60th birthday. The relic was manufactured during George Romney's final year as American Motors chairman.
The youngest of George and Lenore Romney's four children, Willard Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947, a "miracle baby," his father wrote, because Lenore Romney no longer thought she could become pregnant.
Mitt developed a passion for his father's business and sat alongside George Romney as he pored over auto trade publications. The son absorbed the smallest details of the auto industry, down to the minutiae of each car's design.
"I used to brag that you could show me one square foot and I could pick out the model and the year of the car," he said.
Although they lived a privileged life in the Detroit suburbs, Romney's parents sought to instill working-class values by making sure the kids pitched in with chores. That included shoveling before dawn during snowstorms.
Democrats dominated Michigan in the 1960s, no surprise given the strong auto industry and its union workers. What was a surprise was George Romney's success in being elected governor in 1962 as a Republican.
Like the auto business, Mitt Romney learned politics at the kitchen table. Father invited son to strategy sessions, giving him a front row seat on the campaign.
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