SALT LAKE CITY — After news of President George H.W. Bush's passing at age 94 broke late Friday night, Utah politicians, religious leaders and others voiced their admiration for the nation's 41st president and offered condolences to his family.
"President George H.W. Bush will be sorely missed. He was a great example, the patriarch of our country, and a devoted servant to all. He was loved and respected by everyone. He was a man of great character and integrity," Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted.
Herbert ordered the lowering of both the U.S. and Utah flags to half-staff in Bush's honor, beginning Saturday and going for 30 days. On Wednesday, the lowered flags will also be in honor of South Salt Lake police officer David Romrell, who being laid to rest that day, Herbert added.
Saturday morning, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expressed their gratitude for the life and service of the former president, who visited Utah to meet with church leaders multiple times.
"We honor him as a devoted husband, father and grandfather, a man of deep conviction who dedicated his life in service to country, family and faith. We have been blessed by his legacy of service and devotion, and we pray they will be granted God's peace as they remember and celebrate his remarkable life."
President Ezra Taft Benson and President Thomas S. Monson attended Bush's inauguration in 1989 and the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square, then known as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, sang.
The 41st U.S. president met with Latter-day Saint leaders on numerous occasions, according to the book "Presidents and Prophets."
Bush first met with church leaders in 1982 while vice president. In 1986, President Benson met the vice president in his office and presented a copy of the new LDS hymnbook. In 1989, after Bush became president, he awarded President Benson with the Presidential Citizens Medal by video during President Benson's 90th birthday celebration
In 1992, during his third year as the nation's president, Bush traveled to Utah and met with President Gordon B. Hinckley and President Monson.
During the trip, Bush spoke at BYU.
"Americans need to understand something that you all know very, very well," he said before quoting late church President David O. McKay: "No other success can compensate for failure in the home."
The World War II hero, who presided during the coalition victory over Iraq in Kuwait, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the final months of the Cold War, died late Friday night at his Houston home, said family spokesman Jim McGrath. His wife of more than 70 years, Barbara Bush, died in April 2018.
Friday night, Sen. Orrin Hatch's office shared a photo of the president with the message "Rest in Peace, President Bush."
In a statement Saturday, Hatch praised Bush as one of the greatest heroes of the American century and one of the finest gentlemen he ever knew.
"The breadth and depth of his service are without parallel," Hatch said. "He was the man who pulled back the Iron Curtain, shining the warm sunlight of freedom where freedom had grown cold. His influence — in global affairs, in American domestic policy, and in our hearts — cannot be overstated. … May God bless the Bush family, and may our 41st president rest in peace with his beloved Barbara."
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted, "Sending our heart-felt condolences to the Bush family. We are ever grateful for your legacy of leadership, service and family. Rest well gentle soul. You will be missed."
"A unique sense of loss can be felt as people ponder President Bush's life and passing," former governor Mike Leavitt said in a statement Saturday. "His goodness and devotion were amplified in his post-presidential life."
"We lost a great American today. Sue and I send our love to the Bush Family. Godspeed 41," Rep. John Curtis wrote Friday.
“While I’m sad to learn of the passing of President George H.W. Bush, I can’t help but smile at the thought of him being reunited with his beloved wife, Barbara," Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said in a statement Saturday. “So much more than just a president, he exemplified service to our nation and devotion to family.”
"A man of the highest character, George H.W. Bush dedicated his life to serving our nation. His grace and wisdom will be sorely missed," Sen. Mike Lee tweeted Saturday.
Rep. Chris Stewart tweeted that he was "saddened" to hear of Bush's passing, but "grateful for his patriotism and long life of service," and called him an "extroardinary American."
Ronald Fox, who did "advance work" — making plans and arrangements before presidential visits — in multiple administrations, said Bush was "one who liked to be with the people."
"He would seldom, if ever, eat in his hotel room when he was staying in a city," Fox told the Deseret News Saturday. "He would go into a restaurant, he'd eat dinner, then go around and shake hands with everybody."
Fox accompanied Bush and made advance arrangements for his 1992 visit to Salt Lake City, where they dined at a restaurant on Pierpoint Avenue and watched a Tabernacle Choir performance in addition to meeting with state and church officials.
"He was kind, generous, very thoughtful," Fox said. "At the end of each day, he would have a list of all the people he met, and he would write thank you notes or just kind notes to those people. … I'll bet he wrote 15 to 20 notes every night after doing an event, and he did that all of his life."
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes offered his prayers and condolences Friday as well, adding, his was "a long life and one well lived."
"This year Heidi and I read George H.W. Bush's bio by (Jon Meacham) and found new appreciation for his great life of service, marriage, family and legacy. He'll be missed by many, remembered fondly for a full life — and ultimately reunited with Barbara on the other side," Utah County Commissioner Tanner Ainge tweeted.
Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, a Democrat who lost her Senate bid to Mitt Romney and announced her run for county mayor Friday, wrote, "I initially arrived in D.C. the very week President Bush was inaugurated. My early days there were under his tenure. While we are different parties, I have never questioned his commitment to the country nor his integrity. A loss for the nation."
Evan McMullin, the Utahn who ran as an independent for president in 2016, tweeted, "George H.W. Bush personified the qualities an America aspiring to its ideals requires of its leaders: courage, honor, dignity, loyalty, humility, integrity, selflessness and knowledge. I hope American leaders of both parties will follow in his tradition for years to come."