Tom Kelley, chef recall interactions with Pres. George H. W. Bush

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President George H. W. Bush had a strong connection in Fort Wayne, car dealer Tom Kelley.

Tom Kelley shared several stories with WANE 15 News Monday, like the time he caddied for Bush, in Palm Springs. He met Bob Hope and Presidents Clinton and Ford along the way.

In another memory, the two talked on the phone after Kelley’s granddaughter was born. 

“We said we had a girl. He said ‘you didn’t name her George, did you?’ I said no, sir. We love you dearly but we didn’t name her George.” Kelley said while laughing. 

It was one of countless memories Kelley had of his friend George H. W. Bush. They met up 40 – 50 times. 

“It’s like a really cool chapter in my life has just closed,” Kelley explained.

The two met in the Oval Office.  Kelley, a friend of vice president Dan Quayle became golfing buddies with the president. They traveled the country together, getting to know each other and their families well.

In one private conversation, Bush told Kelley he could have gotten rich working on Wall Street, but chose to serve the country.

“It really refreshes and restores your faith in humanity when you find someone like that absolutely does the right thing at the right time for the right reason,” Kelley added.

Bush came to Fort Wayne several times at Kelley’s request for helping out causes like The Boys and Girls Club, and for rounds of golf at places like Sycamore Hills Golf Club, even in pouring rain.

“I said sir, it’s awfully wet out there,” Kelley remembers one round. “He said ‘I didn’t come all the way out here to sit around and play cards, let’s go play golf.’ So we played, and he got soaked. But he, never complained. “

After playing some golf, a dinner was being prepared in the clubhouse.

“I made him a New York steak and he wanted it rare,” Bun Lim said.

The chef talked with Bush and even had the day’s menu autographed.

“He came back and told me he really liked the sauce I made for him,” Lim added. “It was red wine mushroom sauce.”

Bush seemingly had a knack for leaving behind memories that were personal not political.

“Very fortunate to have the opportunity to cook for him and I’m pretty sad to learn that he passed away,” Lim said.

“I’m going to miss him a lot and I’m going to miss the experiences, but I’m very grateful for the wonderful times I had with him, and what he did for me and the doors he opened for me and I’ll never forget that,” Kelley added. 

Kelley, who sold and delivered some 20 or 30 cars to the president and his family, prepared Monday to travel to Texas, where he will attend the family-and-friends funeral service.

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