National News

Bush bash: Elder ex-president marks 90th birthday

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2012 file photo, former president George H.W. Bush pauses for a photo before an NFL football game in Houston between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Texans. Former President George H.W. Bush is celebrating his 90th birthday in Maine. Thursday June 12, 2014. A family spokesman says a private dinner Thursday evening features a guest list of more than 200 friends and relatives. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File) -
FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2012 file photo, former president George H.W. Bush pauses for a photo before an NFL football game in Houston between the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Texans. Former President George H.W. Bush is celebrating his 90th birthday in Maine. Thursday June 12, 2014. A family spokesman says a private dinner Thursday evening features a guest list of more than 200 friends and relatives. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
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By The Associated Press

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine - Former President George H.W. Bush is celebrating his 90th birthday at his family's seaside retreat in Maine, where he has spent his summers since he was a boy.

A guest list for a private dinner in his honour Thursday evening includes more than 200 relatives and friends, a family spokesman said.

Many of the guests are from his days in the White House, including former press secretary Marlin Fitzwater, White House counsel Boyden Gray and political director Ron Kaufman, spokesman Jim McGrath said. His children, including former President George W. Bush and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, will be there, McGrath said.

During his presidential years, Bush was known for jogging, tennis and fast-paced golf but now uses a wheelchair because of a form of parkinsonism that has robbed him of use of his legs.

"He's lost his mobility, but he hasn't lost his heart. He's still the genuine person that we've come to cherish," said Ken Raynor, a friend and pro at the Cape Arundel Golf Club.

The 41st president lives in Houston but has spent every summer at the three-story, stone-and-shingle home in Maine except when he was a naval aviator during World War II.

During the war, he bailed out of his airplane over the Pacific. Later, he decided to jump from a plane of his own accord and marked his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays by skydiving.

While his activities are now limited, Bush still enjoys taking out his boat, Fidelity.

"He's always loved going fast. He loves the speed. He loves the adrenaline," McGrath said.

Jon Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian who is writing a book about Bush, said the former president is used to being in motion, so it isn't easy for him to slow down.

The president feels lucky nonetheless, Meacham said.

"He had a remarkable great run of good health and good family and good friends," he said. "So I know his chief view of life at 90 is one of immense gratitude. He's very grateful for his parents, he's grateful for Barbara, he's grateful for his kids. He knows he's one of the luckiest guys who ever lived, really."

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