I was fortunate enough to be chairman of the California Republican Party 30 years ago when Vice President George Bush was elected president with the help of California’s trove of electoral votes.   (Yes, a different era, the last time a Republican carried the state.)

My encounters with him as Vice President and as a candidate were consistent with everything we have been hearing since his passing—he was a very good man who was disarmingly modest and focused on the people he met in a caring, personal way.

My wife, Linda Kasem, encountered him as President when he cared enough to spend several hours one afternoon in South Central LA after the Los Angeles race riots triggered by the Rodney Kind beating.   Linda was working for Sheriff Sherman Block in support of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Youth Foundation. It was a charity that, with volunteer support of hundreds of sheriffs deputies and major donations from the business community, ran a number of youth centers where at-risk kids could play basketball and other sports, learn to use computers and get good counseling.

The White House decided it was a suitable way to visit Los Angeles. Rather than a quick drop in, Bush took an interest in the kids, shot baskets, talked with the young people learning computers and spent more hours than had been planned.   As he was leaving, he asked his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, to check his bag for some White House souvenirs he could leave behind as a thank you gifts.   Scowcroft go on the ground to rummage through the bag, and Bush soon joined him.   Whereupon the entire presidential detail got on their knees to help.

Suitable memorabilia were found and distributed, and the entourage departed.

A few days later, Linda received a hand-written note from the President thanking her for the opportunity to visit and enclosing a personal check for $1000 to the Sheriff’s Youth Foundation, with an injunction that he did not want any publicity but just to lend his support to a worthy cause.

Bush had famously called for a “kinder, gentler” America and was exactly that kind of public and private person.

RIP, President George H. W. Bush.