KENNEBUNK — About 200 people gathered with their dogs Sunday afternoon at Gooch’s Beach and told stories of close encounters with the 41st president, who spent his summers at the Bush family compound at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport.

While attendees at a similar gathering in April held after the death of former first lady Barbara Bush donned pearls as a nod to her signature neckwear, many of those gathered Sunday wore colorful socks in recognition of George Bush’s affinity for eye-popping hose.

Confined to a wheelchair by a form of Parkinson’s disease later in life, Bush, who died Nov. 30 at the age of 94, knew his ankles were frequently on view and enjoyed wearing interesting socks. He was buried Thursday in a pair of socks with an image of squadron planes, in acknowledgment of his Navy pilot days during World War II.

The spring gathering included a collection of children’s books – Mrs. Bush was a children’s literacy advocate – that were given to area libraries. At Sunday’s gathering people dropped off clothing and toiletries for veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Togus near Augusta.

Cathy Connors of Kennebunkport holds onto her Newfoundland dog while signing a card in honor of George H.W. Bush at Gooch’s Beach in Kennebunk on Sunday.  Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Both events in honor of the Republican president and his wife were organized by Diane Denk, a Democratic activist and state legislator-elect.

“There are no politics at the beach,” said Denk.


Denk got to know Barbara Bush at the popular dog-walking beach where the Bushes would appear, she more frequently than he. The Bushes were lifelong dog lovers. The president’s yellow Labrador retriever service dog, Sully, lay in watch over his master’s flag-draped coffin last week in the Capitol Rotunda.

Cathy Connors of Kennebunkport brought her waist-high Newfoundland to the gathering Sunday afternoon.

Connors said her husband, Michael Claus, grew up in Kennebunkport and now serves as the town’s director of public works. When he was a boy, and his mother was a Democratic precinct captain, the family dog escaped and promptly jumped on Mrs. Bush and bit her. Connors said the Bushes were very understanding. They didn’t raise a fuss and the family dog was let off the hook.

“It just shows how we can all get along,” said Connors.

Heidi Nystrom traveled from Brookline, Vermont, to attend the gathering and tell the story about the time her mother, who along with her family spent summers in the Kennbunkport area, accidentally rowed a rubber raft into Bush’s motorboat when he was at the wheel.

Kennebunk resident Mimi Hoff said she was deeply moved by Bush’s attendance at his daughter-in-law Margaret Bush’s appearance in the play “Love Letters” at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel last summer even though he was quite ill, requiring medical attention several times during the performance.

“He always did for his family and friends,” said Hoff.

Pamela Wuerthner of Kennebunkport, sporting colorful socks, said she served Bush twice at Mabel’s Lobster Claw in Kennebunkport, where she was a waitress.

“So I wear these in honor of President Bush,” she said.

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