President George W. Bush walks with Arlene Howard in 2004...

President George W. Bush walks with Arlene Howard in 2004 at the 9/11 memorial groundbreaking in Eisenhower Park. Credit: Newsday/David L. Pokress

Arlene Howard, the mother of a Port Authority police officer killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and a symbol of a nation's grief after presenting President George W. Bush with her son's shield days after the attacks, died Sunday.

The longtime Hicksville resident died of congestive heart failure in Virginia Beach, Virginia, her family said. She was 95.

Howard and Bush remained friends after they met on Sept. 14, 2001, at an event for 9/11 victims’ families at the Javits Center in Manhattan, according to her daughter, Geri-Anne Satterfield, and son, Tim Howard. Her son George, a 16-year Port Authority police veteran, died while helping people get out of the World Trade Center.

“[Bush} called her before she died and said, ‘You have a family who loves you, an ex-president who loves you and a nation who loves you,’” Tim Howard said. “And she said, ‘How is Laura?’ When he called her, her face lit up. It was beautiful.”

Arlene Marguerite Settanni Howard, her family said, was an indomitable woman deeply devoted to her Roman Catholic faith, her country, military veterans, cops, firefighters and other first responders. She volunteered for years at the Northport Veterans Administraton Medical Center and successfully lobbied the VA to provide health care for women at the facility. Howard was also active for many years in the American Legion. She became commander of the Charles Wagner Post in Hicksville and later was the first woman to serve as Nassau County commander for the Legion.

“She was an amazing woman,” Satterfield said. “She was a strong, independent woman long before it was  OK for women to be strong and independent.”

Born Nov. 24, 1923, in Brooklyn, Howard became one of the first women to join the WAVES, the women's branch of the Naval Reserves, during World War II. She worked in weapons procurement in Washington, D.C., during the last years of the war. She met Bob Howard in the Navy. They married in 1950 and were together until  he died in1987. Together they had six children.

The couple moved to Hicksville and Arlene Howard worked as a bookkeeper for many years while her husband continued to serve in the Navy. When their children came to her with problems, Satterfield said, she told them to turn to their faith: “Pray your rosary,” she would tell her kids.

George Howard was off-duty on 9/11, but he called in and was told to report to the World Trade Center. During a speech before a joint session of Congress 10 days after the attack, Bush held up his shiny silver shield

“It was given to me by his mom, Arlene, as a proud memorial to her son,” Bush told lawmakers. “It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end."

Bush later said Arlene Howard remained an inspiration. When the former president introduced  her to Sen. John McCain at a 2004 American Legion convention in St. Louis, Bush described her as “my mother away from home,” according to her family.

Howard was also preceded in death by her son Michael. Along with Satterfield and Tim Howard, she is also survived by sons Bob and Pat Howard, as well as 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

A wake will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, and from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday at Dalton Funeral Home, 47 Jerusalem Ave. in Hicksville.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Monday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church in Hicksville with burial to follow  in Calverton National Cemetery.

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