March 4, 2010

For Bush, a monumental surprise

EDWARD D

— By . MURPHY

20090930_BushAnchor_
click image to enlarge

20090930_BushAnchor_

Gordon Chibroski

20090930_BushAnchor_
click image to enlarge

20090930_BushAnchor_

Gordon Chibroski

Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT — It's kind of tough to hide a large anchor from someone, especially when it's practically in their backyard.

But at Walker's Point, the backyard is across a cove and up a rocky shore, so keeping the anchor out of former President George H.W. Bush's sight might have been a bit easier.

Friends and neighbors surprised Bush on Wednesday morning with the anchor, a plaque and some spruced-up landscaping in a turnout on Ocean Avenue, a popular spot for tourists to see the former summer White House, where Bush and his wife, Barbara, spend late spring through early fall each year.

''What are we doing here?'' Bush asked as he got out of a large SUV on Ocean Avenue, shortly after realizing that the supposed drive to the Cape Arundel Golf Club was a ruse to get him out of his seaside home.

About 75 supporters, neighbors and family members sat on folding chairs to take part in a dedication ceremony.

''All this and I'm not even dead yet?'' said Bush, who turned 85 in June, as he shook hands on his way to a seat.

The anchor -- from a Navy destroyer -- a section of anchor chain and the plaque were provided by several dozen friends, including Daniel Burke, the owner of the Portland Sea Dogs; Andrew Card, chief of staff for former President George W. Bush; and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

According to the plaque, the anchor serves dual symbolic purposes: ''As he was for our nation and world during four years of tumultuous and historic change, so, too, has Kennebunkport served, in the words of St. Paul, 'as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast' to him.''

Much of the event was organized by Ken Raynor, the golf professional at nearby Cape Arundel, who said he was particularly tickled that part of the surprise involved getting Bush to think a round of golf was on the morning's agenda.

Several speakers noted that the Bushes turned the world's spotlight on the Maine town.

''The name Kennebunkport is synonymous with George H.W. Bush,'' said Stephen Spenlinhauer, a friend of Bush and the former owner of Spencer Press. When he tells people where he's from, Spenlinhauer said, they make an immediate connection with the Bushes.

And, he said, when people often tell him how much they admire the Bushes, Spenlinhauer tells them, ''if you think they're great people from a distance, they're even better up close.''

Barbara Bush said she was a little surprised that her husband was unaware of the anchor, seeing as how he had driven past the spot almost every day.

She herself was taken by surprise when her husband wanted the small group at the dedication to see, up close, just why he and his family love Walker's Point so much.

He invited them to walk out onto the peninsula, stroll around and see what Ocean Avenue looks like from the ocean side.

Aides scrambled to redirect two trollies that had ferried guests to the closed-off stretch of road where the dedication was held and alert the Secret Service that company was coming.

''I knew about this,'' Barbara Bush said, referring to the anchor and Wednesday's ceremony, ''but I sure didn't know he'd invite you all out to the point.''

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

emurphy@pressherald.com

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