President Bush charmed a Tri-City Democrat. And gave him a gift

Courtesy Erika Todish

President George H.W. Bush has become part of one Tri-Cities’ family lore after he charmed a tough Hanford union leader into attending his inauguration dinner.

Wednesday the Tri-Cities is remembering the former president during a National Day of Mourning after his death on Nov. 30 at the age of 94.

Bush’s service to the nation as vice president overlapped with Peter Todish’s Hanford career.

Todish worked for the Hanford Fire Department for 45 years, including the decade he served as president of the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Union, said his daughter, Denise Barbour, a Richland resident and also a Hanford employee.

Peter Todish worked for the Hanford nuclear reservation’s fire department for 45 years, said his daughter Denise Barbour. Courtesy Erika Todish

“He was a Democrat all the way,” his daughter remembers.

About a year and a half before Bush was elected president in 1989, Todish was asked to meet with Bush, likely in Seattle, to discuss matters at the Hanford nuclear reservation his family remembers. Todish died in 2010.

Before the meeting Todish and others in a group waiting to see the vice president were given a lengthy lecture about the protocol to follow when addressing a vice president, wrote his daughter-in-law Erika Todish of Kennewick in a social media post.

“Pete was a bit of a salty guy, a tough union president who wasn’t used to being told how he should or shouldn’t behave,” Todish wrote.

But Peter Todish understood the formality of the occasion and followed the rules, only to find the vice president warm and genuinely listening, according to the post.

“He must of been wearing these thoughts on his face, because at some point towards the end of the meeting, Vice President Bush looked at Pete and said, ‘You look like you have something on your mind that hasn’t been said,” Todish posted.

Peter Todish told the vice president how surprised he was that the stuffy rules of etiquette didn’t match the man he was meeting with, his daughter-in-law posted.

The union man joked that Bush must be honored to meet him, and took off his union pin and gave it to the vice president.

The vice president laughed.

Hanford union leader Peter Todish brought home this plate after he and his wife attended the first inauguration dinner of President George H.W. Bush. Courtesy Erika Todish

After thanking Peter Todish, he took off his tie clip — with the seal of the vice president of the United States and Bush’s signature engraved on it — and gave it to the union leader, the Todish family said.

That would be the end of the story, were it not for the invitation Peter and Wilma Todish received out of the blue more than a year later.

They were surprised to be invited to the inauguration dinner for President George H.W. Bush after he was elected president in 1988..

The couple attended, Peter Todish in a tuxedo and his wife in a gown bought for the occasion, Barbour said.

“They had a great time,” Barbour said, and brought home an inauguration plate.

On the day of mourning, Peter Todish’s children — Barbour and Tony Todish — and other family members will be remembering two great men.

One is the president who could make such personal connections and the other is the father who left impressions on all who met him, wrote Erika Todish.

People from all over the country paid their respects to former President George H.W. Bush at U.S. Capitol.

Annette Cary; 509-582-1533; @HanfordNews