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George H.W. Bush's sister, Nancy Ellis, dies of COVID-19 complications at 94

Nancy Bush Ellis was known as a liberal Democrat but still helped campaign for her brother and nephew.
George Bush with Nancy Ellis
Nancy Bush Ellis, the only sister of President George H.W. Bush, died on Sunday due to complications of COVID-19.Bettmann Archive
/ Source: TODAY

Nancy Bush Ellis, the younger sister of former President George H.W. Bush and aunt of former President George W. Bush, died Sunday at 94 of complications from COVID-19, the Bush family said.

The George and Barbara Bush Foundation shared the news in a tweet on Sunday afternoon, writing, "We are sad to share that President Bush’s beloved sister, Nancy Bush Ellis, has passed away. Our condolences and prayers are with the Ellis and Bush families as we remember a remarkable woman who brought joy and light to the world."

TODAY's Jenna Bush Hager spoke about the loss on the 4th hour of TODAY on Monday.

"I loved her a lot," Jenna said. "She was such lovely woman, and my grandpa loved her so much. ... She lived an extraordinary and long life."

Pierce Bush, Jenna's first cousin and George H.W. Bush's grandson, also tweeted about his "great aunt Nan."

"She was an amazing woman, cut from a rare cloth," Pierce Bush, 34, wrote. "All who knew her, were better because of it. Smart, classy and witty- she cared deeply about family and was loved by all."

Historian Jon Meacham called her "the great Nancy Bush Ellis" on Twitter, adding, "Whenever a question about family history was raised, Bush 41 would say, 'Unleash Nan!'"

Nancy Ellis was hospitalized on Dec. 30 with a fever and tested positive for the coronavirus, her family told TODAY in a statement. Her symptoms resolved in a few days, but her health was already failing, they said.

For much of her life, Nancy Ellis was a Democrat focused on anti-poverty, environmental issues and working with the NAACP, Jenna said.

But she also helped campaign for her brother when he entered the Republican presidential primary in 1979, and she did the same for her nephew when he ran for governor of Texas in 1994 and for president in 2000, the The New York Times reported.

2014 John F. Kennedy Profile In Courage Award Ceremony
Nancy Walker Bush Ellis attends the 2014 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Ceremony at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library And Museum on May 4, 2014, in Boston.Paul Marotta / Getty Images

"She was a Democrat for whom family came first,” Meacham told the Times.

The only sister of George H.W. Bush, Nancy Ellis was a champion tennis player and highly athletic. Jenna shared a funny anecdote on TODAY Monday about her great-aunt's tennis skills.

"She told her kids that if any of them beat her in tennis, she would pay them like $5 or something, and none of them ever could," Jenna chuckled.

Nancy Ellis married her husband, Alexander Ellis Jr., in 1946 and raised her four children in Concord, Massachusetts. When her nephew George W. Bush was attending Harvard, she had weekly lunches with him.

She's survived by her three sons, Alexander Ellis III, John Prescott Ellis and Josiah Wear Ellis; her only daughter, Nancy Walker Ellis Black; her nine grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; and brother Jonathan James Bush, according to the Times.