LeRoy Collins Commentary 20

Commentary #20
22 December 2006

Sayonara to Governor Jeb Bush

Dear Governor Bush,...just a quick note here on the eve of your departure from the Florida Governor's Mansion.

Weekend before last, my wife, Jane, and I were visiting my mother in her Tallahassee home next door to yours. Mom suggested Jane and I take a stroll down the street to see the Mansion's Christmas decorations. At the Mansion's locked main gate, the "voice in the box" came out of the ether and said "Hello, Admiral and Mrs. Collins, this is Mike. Please come back tomorrow (Monday) morning, when the public part of the Mansion is open 10-noon to view its Holiday decorations."

The next day approx 11am, we were met by Mike, and Carol Beck, the Mansion Curator. Carol took us in and told us many wonderful things about the Mansion, many of which jogged my memory about when my family first occupied the new Governor's Mansion in 1957. I had been back a few times in the interim, but my wife had not revisited since 1959, the year we were married. The Library was new to us, and we found one of my Dad's books, Forerunners Courageous, prominently displayed. I played a Christmas song on the Mansion's elegant Steinway grand piano. What a delightful hour, which Mike and Carol provided.

But this was just one of the many occasions during your eight years as Governor when the Collins family has been befriended by the Bush family, e.g.

My three sisters live in Tallahassee, and they check on our 95 yr-old mother daily. Mom lived by herself (at her insistence!) until just three years ago, when she had an attempted forcible entry. On that occasion, your security detail and the Tallahassee Police responded as soon as called, since a breach of security at her home has an alarming nearness to the Mansion. The outcome was a surveillance system installed to protect her...and our Governor next door.

You have been very generous including Mom in Mansion social functions. Throughout your eight years as Florida's Governor, you have provided emergency help whenever needed, but some of the most memorable examples have been very recent:

The last few days of this past October, Mom had a nasty fall which broke three ribs and punctured a lung. That is a tough blow for anyone, and especially a 95 year-old! The hospital commenced an aggressive program to combat pneumonia. Her condition became so severe that my sisters called me enroute my 50th Reunion at the Naval Academy, and told me to divert immediately to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital; Momís survival was in doubt. When Jane and I got there, she seemed comatose.

The following Monday, Mom got a phone call from your father, in Texas. We doubted she would realize she was talking to President Bush #41. With eyes still closed, she started to respond, then to our horror, she scolded: "You caused great anguish for your family and others when you made a parachute jump from an airplane on your 80th Birthday. And that is not all....Ē Then she explained that I did the same thing later, at age 70, and my son did it the day after m, and she blamed all that foolishness on your father! He responded with a politically-correct "Yes, ma'am." But that is not all...

The very next day, Election Day 2006, YOU came calling on Mom in her hospital room. Somehow, she was ready when you asked her what she needed, a copy of your sister's new book, My Father, My President, which you provided in minutes, from your own car...inscribed. What a thrill for my mother at a time she needed inspiration.

Since that fateful weekend, which you helped turn around, she is improving daily, very slowly. Her vital signs remain strong; she is restoring her strength. We are optimistic about her recovery, with considerable thanks to your family. So, we are going to miss having you next door. Governor-elect Charlie Crist has already called her for an appointment. She has asked him to wait, so she can get her hair fixed properly for a Governor's visit.

We will always appreciate having had the Bush family next door. We wish you well in whatever you do. You have been an outstanding Governor for Florida, and we believe you will be outstanding in whatever you do for the rest of your life. God bless you and your distinguished family.

/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr., Tampa


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