Texas A&M floral design director creates arrangements for late former first lady Barbara Bush

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Texas A&M floral design director creates arrangements for late former first lady Barbara Bush

Bill McKinley, director of Texas A&M’s Benz School of Floral Design, works on a wreath that was hung on the bridge to Barbara Bush’s grave site. Photo courtesy of Nicole McKinley Sympathy design work and tributes are part of what Bill McKinley regularly teaches his floral design students, showing them how to personalize an arrangement to help the viewer glean some insight into the life of the person it memorializes. So for Barbara Bush, McKinley — the director of Texas A&M’s Benz School of Floral Design — created two wreaths that hung on either side of the bridge to her gravesite with her tastes and personality in mind. While he didn’t have time to get the specific pink roses that are named after the former first lady, McKinley used a variety that was “very, very close.” Sprigs of cherry blossoms represented the Bushes’ time in Washington, D.C., and in China, to which George Bush was an ambassador. The ferns, ivy and green material used in the wreaths were a reference to her love of gardens and gardening, McKinley said. And of course, no tribute to Bush would be complete without a nod to her iconic faux pearls. McKinley said they were a “necessity” — he draped a strand across each wreath. McKinley volunteered his services to the George H.W. Bush Foundation after the former first lady died at 92 on April 17. She was laid to rest in a private ceremony Saturday on the grounds of her husband’s presidential library on the Texas A&M campus, in a gated plot across from a creek where the couple’s daughter, Robin, is buried. “The people at the Bush Foundation really gave me a lot of leeway and said, ‘We trust you, we know the professionalism that you have, we’re gonna leave it up to you to decide what to put in it,'” McKinley said. McKinley put the wreaths together on Friday, each one taking a couple of hours to arrange. Special care was taken to make sure each element was perfectly anchored and mechanically sound so that the wreaths would hold up for several days. “If something just fell out of it, that would be tragic,” he said. While he never met the former first lady while she was alive, McKinley said that like many Aggies, he felt like he knew Bush through not only her time in the White House, but through the Bush family’s relationship with Texas A&M and their visits to campus. “Obviously it was an honor and a privilege to be able to pay tribute to such a well-respected, iconic, almost personality in our country,” McKinley said. The George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum returns today to its normal hours, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission has returned to $9 for adults. This week, the library and museum will be accepting donations of new and gently used children’s books that will be given to Books & a […]