To some, the presidency is like America’s own version of royalty, so when a former president passes away, it may hit close to home. Such is the case with Pleasanton native Angela Oesterle Sinclair when she attended the Inauguration of US President 41, George H.W. Bush on January 20, 1989.
Angela’s father, Thomas Oesterle, was highly politically active, having been the treasurer of the Northampton County Republican Committee during the 1988 Presidential Election. When President Bush won the election, her father was able to acquire tickets to the January inauguration ball and ceremony. Angela’s family, whom included her father, her mother Deb Frantz and her siblings Kym and Tommy Oesterle, attended the once in a lifetime opportunity in Washington, D.C. “My school graciously excused my absence from school at the time if I would document this adventure and contribute to the school’s weekly newsletter as well as attempt to give President Bush a couple of lapel pins with our school’s Hornet mascot on them,” said Angela, who was a sixth grader at Northeast Middle School in Bethlehem, PA at the time.
In her contribution to her school’s newsletter, Angela described her family’s adventures in D.C. those few days: “Getting across Washington was not an easy task as the major roads were barricaded and the only transportation by which to get you even remotely close to the Capitol building was the Metroline (the subway). The best way to travel was on foot.”
When it came time for the Inaugural Ball, Angela remembered feeling like a modern day Cinderella in her fancy dress. “We were able to obtain a front row view, standing near the stage. Seats were nowhere to be found this week and security was tight,” she said, adding they were within 25 feet of President Bush. When the event came to a close, Angela and her family went sightseeing across D.C. visiting Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, the National Air and Space Museum and much more. Unfortunately, she was unable to accomplish her mission of getting the lapel pins to President Bush in person, but instead wrote a letter to him with the pin attached when she got back home. Little did she know, President Bush would read her letter and receive her pins then write a letter back to her just three months later in April. The letter read:
“Dear Angela: Thank you for your thoughtful letter and for sending me the lapel pins. You were kind to remember me, and I’m delightful to learn that you enjoyed the Inaugural festivities. With my best wishes, Sincerely, President Bush.”
“I didn’t think he would actually write me back, I was so excited,” said Angela, who keeps the letter framed along with the picture of the 41st President she received. “I was so sad when I heard of his passing. Everyone has been sharing their memories of him and this is one that I will be holding onto for the rest of my life.”
On Dec 5, 2018, the National Day of Mourning for President Bush, Angela’s son, Billy Sinclair, was home sick from Pleasanton Elementary and they watched the funeral together. She said as the Military Honor Guard was carrying down the President’s body from the U.S. Capitol, Billy was saluting while holding one of his Navy Hot Wheels ™ planes.
“It was like my son was remembering the late President’s Navy history. I, too, mourn with the family and nation, not only because of what President George H.W. Bush stood for – his humor, his love for his country and more importantly, his family. This is another memory that will be etched in my history. It was definitely a once in a lifetime memory of mine and I am passing on the memories with my children and with anyone who wishes to hear my story.”
In honor of Presidents’ Day this past Monday, the Pleasanton Express wants you to share your presidential encounters with us! Please email your stories to Rebecca Pesqueda at email@example.com.