NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A local lobbyist who worked closely with the Bush family described Barbara Bush as compassionate and tough.
Bill Phillips' political career has spanned decades, having served as a Presidential appointee during the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush and as Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee.
"I was greatly saddened, and I'll always be grateful for my time with the Bush family," Phillips told NewsChannel 5.
The former first lady died after battling congestive heart failure in Houston with her family at her side Tuesday night.
She did not seek additional medical treatment as her condition worsened.
"I admired her for making a decision that had to be very tough," said Phillips.
Phillips said he has sent a note to the family since she passed away. He tried to keep up with the Bush family after the end of their term in 1993.
He fondly remembered his first interview with Mrs. Bush when he was asked to direct her husband's political action committee.
"She met me on the front porch of their residence with lemonade and cookies. Then the vice president called me and asked, 'Barbara said you were a nice young man, will you take the job?' Probably the last time someone said I was nice or young," joked Phillips.
He stated that many may not realize her strong spirituality and how it motivated her leadership, her strong bond as a mother, and her sensitivity.
He wil never forget her compassion while staying assertive.
"We all were a little bit afraid of her but we all loved her, and she kept us in line," added Phillips. "She was the toughest, compassionate person I've ever known."
One of his favorite memories of Barbara was when they were flying back to D.C. after a disappointing campaigning day in Iowa.
"Mrs. Bush said, 'Bill how is your family, and have you spent any time with them?'" recalled Phillips. "I can never forget her concern about my personal life on a day that wasn't so good for her and the vice president."
Former president George W. Bush said he's a lucky man that Barbara Bush was his mother.
The funeral on Saturday will be at the family's church by invitation only.