Her failing health drew statements of concern and affection from many, especially in the extended world of Bush friends, allies and former aides.
Andrew H. Card Jr., who was transportation secretary in the first Bush administration and White House chief of staff in the second, had lunch with Barbara and George Bush a few weeks ago and said the former first lady still retained her spirit.
“She is more than a matriarch,” Mr. Card said by telephone on Sunday. “She was a greater conscience to her husband, to her sons, to her daughter and to those who had the benefit of being in her proximity. She was an unvarnished purveyor of the truth and motivated us all to be better people. And she was also contagious with love.”
Born Barbara Pierce on June 8, 1925, she grew up in Rye, N.Y., and was 16 when she met George Bush at a school dance. They stayed in touch when he enlisted as a Navy pilot in World War II and married in 1945. They moved to Texas, where Mr. Bush built an oil business and eventually ran for office. She helped his political career with a methodically kept card file of people he met, building a network that the two would maintain throughout their lives.
Mr. Bush was elected vice president in 1980, and president eight years later. Mrs. Bush served as first lady from 1989 to 1993, the silver-haired matron of the White House who promoted literacy and became known for her bracing candor and sometimes tart tongue that belied her grandmotherly image. She founded the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and wrote two autobiographies, plus two books in the voices of family dogs, C. Fred and Millie.
She and Mr. Bush had six children, two of whom would go on to run for president — George W., who won twice, and Jeb, who lost the Republican nomination in 2016 — as well as 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Mrs. Bush joined Abigail Adams as the only woman in American history to be the wife and mother of presidents.
Their first daughter, Robin, died of leukemia at age 3 and is buried at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Tex. Mr. and Mrs. Bush plan to be interred next to her.