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Bush, who passed away Nov. 30, had sponsored a child in the Philippines and kept up an exchange with the boy for 10 years. Few knew about the correspondence, not even his granddaughter Jenna Bush Hager.
But she wasn’t surprised.
“One of the things that I really loved about him was his humility," Jenna said Thursday on TODAY. "His mom always would say, ‘Don’t use the ‘I’ word — talk about what others do,’ and so he never told me this."
Bush began his sponsorship of Timothy when the boy was 7, according to the Colorado-based charity Compassion International.
The former president provided financial support to Timothy in addition to being his pen pal. All communication went through the nonprofit and, for security reasons, Bush always used the pseudonym “George Walker” in the decade the pair kept in touch.
According to images of the letters released by Compassion International, Bush sent his first note to Timothy on Jan. 24, 2002.
“I want to be your new pen pal. I am an old man, 77 years old, but I love kids; and though we have not met I love you already,” he wrote.
“I live in Texas — I will write you from time to time — Good Luck. G. Walker.”
In another letter, Bush described getting invited to the White House — without ever letting on why.
“Timothy, have you ever heard of the White House? That's where the president of the USA lives,” he wrote. “I got to go to the White House at Christmas time. Here is a little booklet that I got at the White House in Washington."
Jenna said the story exemplifies her grandfather’s modesty.
“Reading these letters yesterday, I miss him, but also, this is the reason why I miss him — because he didn’t need to brag about it,” she said.
Jim McGrath, a spokesman for Bush for 25 years, said he only learned about the president's sponsorship of Timothy through recent media reports, but he later confirmed the authenticity of the letters the two sent to each other.
"Had no idea — ever — that 41 did this, but not the least bit surprised. The kindest, most giving man. #Remembering41," McGrath said in a tweet.