by Bill Keeler

Although I realize it pales in comparison to other stories floating around today about personal connections with President George H. W. Bush, on February 14, 2004, I received a telephone call from Bush 41 and it was unbelievably monumental for me.

The President had just left office after a hard fought campaign with Bill Clinton, who one month prior had been sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States. President Bush was now a former President; but, his call to me seemed like it was coming from the world's most powerful man.

Back in August of 1993, our area was shocked when a young girl by the name of Sara Anne Wood was abducted while she was riding her bike in the Town of Litchfield, near Sauquoit. There was a massive outpouring of support from the community and at the time, I was doing mornings on K-Rock. My co-host Brad Davies and I reached out to the White House to see if there was any support Washington could provide in the search for the young 12-year-old girl. We didn't hear back, until that Valentine's Day when the President reached out.

He was legitimately concerned and said he was catching up on matters that he hadn't been able to follow through on.  The call started with an aid explaining that I couldn't record the conversation. I was actually in a car on a cell phone at the time with no way to record and after I explained that, I heard the words, "Please hold for the President."

He asked me about Sara Anne Wood and about the massive search that was underway throughout the region. At the time, the abduction was getting a great deal of national publicity through network news and the program America's Most Wanted featuring John Walsh, whose son had previously been abducted and killed. The conversation went on for a few minutes and he explained he didn't know how much he could accomplish at this point in his career; but, he would still make phone calls on our behalf. I expressed to him my dismay over the fact that he had lost the election and then like an idiot, I asked, "How's Barbara doing?" He answered by saying she was well and that's when the conversation came to a polite conclusion.

I believe President Bush called me because even out of office, he was still practicing constituent services and reaching out to see if he could help people. Based on things I've read about him, this was common for this President. He was all about serving the public and helping people through his entire life. He served people before he was President, during his Presidency, and even more so in his years after leaving office. I'm sure he was going through a list of people he wanted to follow up with and that brief moment when he called me was probably never even lodged into his memory banks; but, it was certainly seared into mine.

We can all learn from the examples set by this President. He hoped for a better and kinder America and he actually worked to accomplish exactly that. He was a patriot, a loving father and husband and a life-long public servant. At the highest level of public office, even after he lost that position, he never stopped trying to help people.  It's true, his phone call to me probably lasted about 2 minutes and it was insignificant; however, the thoughtfulness of actually taking the time and effort to make a phone call to someone like me is a perfect example of the lifetime he dedicated to helping people in America and throughout the world.

The loss of President George H. W. Bush is truly enormous; fortunately, the example he set for all of us to follow, will live on forever.