President George H.W. Bush sent letters to this Corpus Christi businessman and attorney. Here’s what they said.
Alexandria Rodriguez, Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Melvyn N. Klein walked down a hallway decorated with framed movie posters and photos inside the Wells Fargo Tower in downtown Corpus Christi.
He took a right and then a left before he came to a stop.
He stared at a framed, handwritten letter next to a Caller-Times column he had penned in December 2001, about three months after the devastating attacks of Sept. 11.
The letter was written in black pen on wide-ruled notebook paper. At the bottom was a signature: President George H.W. Bush.
In the letter, Bush refers to his son, George W. Bush, who was president at the time and was dealing with the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Klein, a Corpus Christi businessman and attorney, paused for a moment after looking at the letter. He smiled and pointed to the column he wrote based on Bush’s notes.
“Character matters. Faith matters. Family matters. So do friends. At this time of year we count our many blessings for the values we share with so many other families, so many friends,” the letter read. “I can tell you that our president gets his strength from his personal faith and also from Laura and the rest of his family, and he is blessed by the love of many friends.”
Bush gave Klein the letter after a meeting of an M.D. Anderson Cancer Center committee on which they were both serving.
“He used to read these columns and I would get comments from him. One day I was sitting next to him, and he turned his head and asked what’s the subject of your next column?” Klein said, admitting he didn’t have a topic. “He was left-handed. I see him scribbling. He said ‘I’ve written some notes. If I were writing a column, this is probably what I would write about.’ “
The letter became a prompt for Klein’s column. The column centered on that exchange and detailed the importance of the values written in the letter, especially after the 9/11 attacks.
Bush began reading Klein’s columns when they met in the late 1970s at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, where Bush was serving on a board. Bush’s daughter, Pauline Robinson “Robin” Bush, had died at age 3 years earlier, after a battle with leukemia.
“He wanted to help people not have the experience they had with their daughter,” Klein said. “They were deeply affected by their daughter having leukemia at a time with very little options to treat it.”
Klein later published a book of his columns and another letter from Bush.
Another letter from Bush congratulating Klein on the book, dated Aug. 3, 2006, is framed on the same wall next to Klein’s column.
“I am proud to have my words in this fine volume,” Bush wrote. “Warmest regards from the Marine Coast, your friend, George Bush.”
They remained close friends throughout their time on the board of the cancer center, and stayed in touch after Bush became president.
Weeks, months and years passed, but Bush’s values remained the same.
“The most important subjects in his mind was that. He said ‘This is what I would write about, it’s timeless. This is how I feel about these subjects all the time,'” Klein recalled Bush saying. “He personified those values, he really did.”
Nine years ago, Bush asked Klein to chair a board-level research committee for M.D. Anderson. Klein remains humble about the appointment from the former president.
He also recalled Bush’s humble nature.
“You’ve got this person who has really exceptional accomplishments,” he said. “And yet, when you interact with him, you have no idea. He’s just humble. Modest. Just a really nice person with a good sense of humor. I like him as a friend and I respected him as president of the United States.”
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