Historical Perspective: 1984 Barbara Bush Visit

Nearly 40 years ago, on October 25, 1984, Rochester was visited by Vice President George H. W Bush and his wife Barbara Bush. The two spent their time traveling around town, stopping in Perinton for the Monroe County Long-Term Health Care Program Annual Meeting and ending in Rochester to meet with residents, reporters, and businesses in the community. 

One stop for Barbara Bush included the Literacy Volunteers office in Anderson Hall on College Avenue.

Barbara Bush; Nancy Rickard; Craig Telfer
Barbara Bush being greeted by Nancy Rickard (President) and Phil Rubenstein (PR coordinator)

The visit was short notice, according to the 1985 edition of Litbits, but the office was able to organize something quick for the unannounced visit. Nancy Rickard, president of LVA-R, greeted Barbara Bush and gave her a tour of the office. The Second Lady was able to sit in a tutor training workshop and be immersed in the operations of LVA-R. Furthermore, student Paulette Williams had the honor of personally receiving a certificate of achievement from Mrs. Bush. In addition, a long-time literacy volunteer, Craig Telfer, had the honor of receiving his twenty-year pin from the Second Lady. The day was filled with celebration and appreciation for the organization and everyone involved. Even with short notice, LVA-R was able to fully showcase the hard work, progress, and accomplishments of students and tutors. 

January 1985 LitBits Edition Page 5
Mrs. Bush awarding Paulette Williams with certificate of achievement
Craig Telfer recieving his 20 year pin from Mrs. Bush


Mrs. Bush sitting in on Clarolyn Cleare’s Basic B Tutor Training Workshop

Nancy Rickard and Barbara Bush

In honor of her visit, LVA-R gave Mrs. Bush a glass figurine of the organization’s logo. The figurine was created by Milton Townsend. The design was originally created as an award for Craig Telfer in 1976.  

A thank you note from Barbara Bush

“I truly loved meeting the tutors – students and friends of Rochester Literacy Inc. The hand blown glass figurine is marvelous!”

LVA-R award made by Milton Townsend for an award for Craig Telfer in 1976
Mrs. Bush opening her gift (the glass figurine) from LVA-R

Earlier that same year, in January, Barbara Bush published a book called C. Fred’s Story about their Cocker Spaniel, a heartfelt project for the Second Lady. The C. Fred’s Story book allowed Mrs. Bush to support Literacy Volunteers of America and Laubach Literacy Action by donating all earnings from the book’s sales. This personal project meant a tremendous amount to Barbara Bush. She was able to have a direct impact on the leading causes of adult literacy and attack illiteracy.

Barbara Bush signing copies of her book.
C. Fred and Barbara Bush

While visiting LVA-R, Mrs. Bush signed several copies of her book and graciously donated them to the agency’s library for students to borrow and read. An unsigned copy of the book is still available in the library today! 

The copy of C. Fred’s Story at the Literacy Rochester office library

After the visit, LVA-R stayed in touch with Mrs. Bush through hand-written letters. Some letters became lost over time, but a couple remain in the Literacy Rochester office, along with photos taken during her visit. Mrs. Bush’s continued support for adult literacy brought national attention and awareness to an ongoing problem plaguing the nation since the early 1900s. 

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