The touching gesture by George H.W. Bush his Secret Service 'family' will never forget
George H.W. Bush sat near a flower garden in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 2013, holding a 2-year-old child. The pair wore matching blue polo shirts and khaki pants - and sported the same hairstyle.
Bush had learned that the boy, the son of an agent on his Secret Service detail, had been diagnosed with leukemia.
The toddler had lost his hair and, to show their support, members of the detail were planning to shave their heads.
So the former president did, too. His wife, Barbara, snapped a picture, which soon went viral.
"When little Patrick got leukemia, a lot of the agents shaved their heads," Bush explained to his granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager, a contributing correspondent for NBC's "Today" show. "I said, 'Well why not me?' It was the right thing to do."
"They're a wonderful group of people," Bush said. "They're like family with us."
The agents thought of the president the same way.
Everyone';s #TuesdayThoughts are on President Bush & we wanted to share a memory. In ';13, Timberwolf learned that the 2-year-old son of an agent on his detail was diagnosed with leukemia & the detail was going to shave their heads. You can see what happened, in classic 41 manner. pic.twitter.com/3Y0vnjNruJ— U.S. Secret Service (@SecretService) December 4, 2018
The Secret Service re-shared the touching photo Tuesday on Twitter, referring to the 41st president by his code name, "Timberwolf." The agency said it "wanted to share a memory" the day before his funeral at Washington National Cathedral.
The boy's battle with leukemia hit close to home for the former president: He and his wife lost their 3-year-old daughter, Robin, to the disease in 1953.
Following the gesture in 2013, the family of Patrick, whose last name was not disclosed, said in a statement to "Today" that they were "humbled and honored by the support and generosity that President and Mrs. Bush and our Secret Service family have shown towards our son."
Three years later, Bush posted the photo on his personal Twitter account, along with an updated one showing the boy several years older - with a full head of hair.
"Incredibly #thankful that my friend Patrick, the courageous young man (with hair!) to my left, is feeling and doing much better these days," he wrote at the time.
CNN analyst Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent, remembered that moment Tuesday in an op-ed for the network, saying that members of the security detail considered Bush family.
"Over the 38 years that members of the Secret Service had the privilege of protecting Bush and his family, he, in turn, became part of the Secret Service family. Each day, he led by example, teaching us how to live with dignity and respect," Wackrow wrote.
"With his passing, a part of the soul of the Secret Service is gone as well. However, it will never be forgotten. Instead, his legacy will live on in the hearts of the countless people he touched.
"It was an honor and privilege to protect you, Timberwolf."