DES MOINES, Iowa -- A week before the nation first learned of Barbara Bush's failing health, family and close friends already knew.
"I read it and I cried," said Iowa resident Becky Beach. Not related by blood, the news hit Beach just as hard. "I lived in all three of their homes. In Houston, Washington D.C., and Maine. Literally, they are like a second family."
Beach served as personal assistant to Barbara Bush for four and a half years beginning in 1978 before her husband George H.W. Bush served as vice president to Ronald Reagan and later 41st President of the United States.
Beach said, "I knew they were a special family."
Where Barbara was, so, too, was Beach in every Iowa county.
"We went to all 99 and we had a blast. One of the things I admire tremendously about her was her love of her family."
From small Iowa towns to Washington D.C., Beach often saw Barbara's lighter side firsthand.
"Her sense of humor and her wit is extraordinary," said Beach. "She also felt that literacy and everybody having the ability to read would be critical for their success in the future, which would ultimately then help the community as a whole."
Beach says looking back, she is now thankful she surprised Barbara at the Bush home in Houston in 2016, where, yet again, Barbara didn't disappoint. Beach recalled a moment Barbara shared early on the campaign trail during her Houston visit.
"She would make fun of me. I had boots that made a lot of noise. We were in a library with wooden floors in New Hampshire, and she was speaking and everything, no cell phones, no computers, nothing. And I went out to use a pay phone and my boots made all this noise across the wooden floor, and she says, 'That rude young lady in the back is my assistant.' They all laughed, of course she was kidding."
Beach says she is invited and expected to attend Barbara Bush's funeral on Saturday in Houston, Texas.