Irish legend Digger Phelps remembers former first lady Barbara Bush
SOUTH BEND, Ind -- Since the passing of former first lady Barbara Bush Tuesday night, condolences and sentiments keep pouring in from all over the nation.
Longtime Bush family friend and former Notre Dame Basketball Coach Digger Phelps shares his memories of her and how she touched his life through the years.
"I got to know George H.W. Bush when Ara Parseghian had this charity golf tournament in Dayton, Ohio.”
That was in 1971.
And through the years Phelps grew close to the family.
So much so, that the President appointed him to steer an important national program.
“I worked for him in ’92 and ran ‘Operation Weed and Seed.’ Weed meant take out the bad element in the neighborhood and the bridge between weed and seed was community policing,” said Phelps.
The first lady even mentioning Phelps in her 2004 book entitled ‘Reflections’.
And even when their time in the White House was over their relationship with the coaching legend was constant.
Phone calls every Thanksgiving, Christmas and during birthdays.
“I would call Barbara on her birthday June 8th to wish her a happy birthday. Then on June 12th, I’d call George on his birthday. And Barbara would always say ‘Digger we are the same age for four days. And then after that I am married to this old man!’ I mean vintage Barbara Bush,” said Phelps.
The night before Barbara Bush died, Digger called the former President and said he would light a candle at the grotto and pray for her.
“When I hung up and had tears in my eyes, because I knew how much he is going to miss her,” said Phelps.
Now he’s remembering her through pictures and hand written notes.
A friendship that started on a golf course fairway over 45 years ago, he makes sure will never fade.
Phelps would like to pay his final respects to the former first lady on Friday during a public service in Houston, Texas.
A private burial will follow at the family plot in College Station on Saturday.