The writing on the photo hanging on the wall has faded. But for Bill Gaul, the memory of the day is still quite clear.
“These cars, black SUVs pull up in the parking lot and start unloading. Guys wearing suits with little pins on them. We’re joking that’s a clown car, that’s the Secret Service. Then George Bush comes around the corner and we go, oh geez. That’s George Bush,” says Gaul, the owner of Three Li’l Pigs BBQ in Daleville.
Gaul was just as surprised as anyone else when President George H.W. Bush walked into the door and sat at a restaurant table twelve years ago.
“It was a once in lifetime opportunity,” says Gaul.
President Bush ordered a vinegar barbeque sandwich with onion straws, and a beer.
“We do daily specials here so every year on the anniversary of his visit, we’ll put that sandwich on special,” says Gaul.
Cell phones weren’t as common back then, but still, news of his visit spread fast.
“Word was starting get around that he was here. And people started to arrive from elsewhere. But they got out on the sidewalk and got everybody’s hand shook. And then they got in the car and drove away,” says Gaul.
He still has his very own seat at the table he sat at so long ago. It’s his chair, declaring George H.W. Bush sat here. But even frequent customers were surprised to learn about the famous guest.
“I did not know that. That was a huge surprise,” says Craig Shaffer, a Lynchburg resident.
In true presidential fashion, George H.W. Bush followed up with a thank you note after his visit.
“He was a great man. I think it’s kind of a throwback to another era where for people like him, service wasn’t in term of what somebody was going to give to you, but service was what you gave to society and gave to the country. And he really did embody that,” says Gaul.
‘He was another one of those strong Americans who attempted to do the best he could to deal with the immense complexities of being President,” says Shaffer.
And in memory of the president’s passing, a plate with a single yellow rose sits at his table.
“He was just a normal guy, really, when you get right down to it,” says Gaul.
In honor of a man who like many of us, enjoyed a good meal and a cold beer.
President George H.W. Bush was 94 years old when he passed on Friday.