Home News Nancy Bush Ellis, Sister and Aunt of Presidents, Dies at 94

Nancy Bush Ellis, Sister and Aunt of Presidents, Dies at 94


Nancy Bush Ellis, the sister of 1 president and aunt of one other, who for a time devoted herself to Democratic causes regardless of her household dynasty’s Republican lineage, died on Sunday at an assisted residing facility in Harmony, Mass. She was 94.

Her son Alexander Ellis 3d mentioned the trigger was problems associated to Covid-19. She was hospitalized on Dec. 30 with a fever and examined constructive for the coronavirus, he mentioned. Her signs abated inside days, he added, however her normal well being was failing.

Good, athletic and outgoing, Ms. Ellis exuded the patrician appeal of a bygone period, Jon Meacham, the historian and biographer of President George Bush, mentioned in a telephone interview. She was energetic, he added, at a time when public service was perceived as noble and politicians from the opposite celebration weren’t considered enemies.

“She was a Katharine Hepburn-like determine,” he mentioned.

In contrast to most of her household, Ms. Ellis was a liberal Democrat for many years, selling environmental and antipoverty causes, elevating cash for the N.A.A.C.P. and serving as head of the New England part of the NAACP Authorized Protection and Academic Fund.

Nonetheless, after one among her brothers, George Bush, introduced he was getting into the Republican main for president in 1979, “there was no extra fiercely loyal individual on the planet,” Mr. Ellis mentioned in an electronic mail.

“She was a splendidly energetic campaigner and cheerleader for her brother,” he mentioned.

She campaigned too for her nephew George W. Bush, who was governor of Texas earlier than he turned president in 2000. When Mr. Bush ran for re-election in 2004, Ms. Ellis campaigned for him not solely in the USA but in addition in London, Paris and Frankfurt, Germany, on behalf of Republicans Overseas, a company that encourages People abroad to register and vote.

“She was a Democrat for whom household got here first,” Mr. Meacham mentioned.

As an energetic environmentalist, Ms. Ellis was a board member and honorary director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. She raised cash to ascertain the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area in Belize. She additionally served on the board of Pact, which fights poverty worldwide.

She was quoted as saying, in reference to her brother, that for a few years, “I used to be out in what George calls ‘deep left.’”

Nancy Walker Bush was born on Feb. 4, 1926, in Milton, Mass., a Boston suburb. Her father, Prescott Sheldon Bush, labored on Wall Avenue earlier than he was elected to the USA Senate from Connecticut in 1952. Her mom, Dorothy Walker Bush, energetic and forceful, raised Nancy and her 4 brothers to be modest and socially accountable but in addition extremely aggressive.

“Her philosophy was, Give your all, strive your hardest, do your greatest,” Ms. Ellis mentioned of her mom in an interview with The Chicago Tribune in 1991 whereas her brother George was campaigning for re-election as president.

Like her mom, Ms. Ellis was a championship tennis participant and an all-around athlete, her expertise honed by competing in opposition to her brothers.

She attended the non-public college Rosemary Corridor in Greenwich (now Choate Rosemary Corridor in Wallingford, Conn.) and Miss Porter’s College in Farmington. Conn., and majored in English at Vassar, from which she graduated in 1946.

That was the yr she married Alexander Ellis Jr., who would run the Boston insurance coverage brokerage agency of Fairfield and Ellis. Ms. Ellis lived together with her husband and 4 youngsters in Harmony. Because the daughter of a well-connected senator in the course of the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations, she ceaselessly visited her mother and father in Washington, having fun with its social scene.

She supported the Democrat Adlai E. Stevenson in his presidential campaigns and was enamored of President John F. Kennedy, one other Democrat. One night in 1963, at a state dinner for John Kenneth Galbraith, who was returning as ambassador to India, she was seated to the president’s proper, historically a spot of honor.

The association induced a stir, with some remarking later that the girl subsequent to the president was “a no one.”

Shocked herself, Ms. Ellis requested the president throughout dinner why she had been accorded such an honor.

“Nan,” he informed her, “you’re the solely lady right here who’s registered to vote in Massachusetts.”

When her nephew George W. Bush was a scholar at Harvard Enterprise College within the early Nineteen Seventies, Ms. Ellis had weekly lunches with him.

“My favourite aunt,” he referred to as her.

“George,” she would reply, “I’m your solely aunt.”

After her husband died in 1989, Ms. Ellis moved to Beacon Hill in Boston and led an energetic social and cultural life. She supported town’s arts, music and theater in addition to quite a few charitable and nonprofit organizations, together with the United South End Settlements, which give providers for the poor; the New England Medical Heart; and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Extraordinarily well-read and a lifelong learner, she additionally participated in seminars at Radcliffe.

“She might simply as simply quote Shakespeare sonnets as whistle a cross-court volley by your ear,” Alexander Ellis mentioned of her tennis prowess. “She supplied us youngsters $100 for the primary one to beat her. Nobody did.”

Ms. Ellis spent half the yr, from Could to October, at her summer season house in Kennebunkport, Maine, not removed from her brother’s household compound at Walker’s Level.

Along with her son Alexander, she is survived by two different sons, John Prescott Ellis and Josiah Put on Ellis, who’s president and chief govt of the Denver Broncos; a daughter, Nancy Walker Ellis Black; 9 grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and a brother, Jonathan James Bush.

President George Bush died in 2018. One other older brother, Prescott S. Bush Jr., died in 2010, and her youthful brother, William H.T. Bush, died in 2018.

“She’s part of this nice American ethos that’s virtually totally gone,” Mr. Meacham mentioned of Ms. Ellis. “She was the very best sort of aristocrat. There was a way of service and not using a shred of snobbery.”