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Editorial: George H.W. Bush's touching gesture for a sick boy

This photo provided by the Office of George

This photo provided by the Office of George Bush shows President George H. W. Bush with Patrick (last name withheld at family's request), 2, in Kennebunkport, Maine. Bush this week joined members of his Secret Service detail in shaving his head to show solidarity for Patrick, who is the son of one of the agents. The child is undergoing treatment for leukemia and is losing his hair as a result. (July 24, 2013) Credit: AP

For most 89-year-old men, shaving their head might not mean taking much off. Former President George H.W. Bush, though, has an admirable mane. But he buzzed it off to support a sick little boy and his family.

Two-year-old Patrick is the child of a Secret Service agent assigned to Bush. (His last name is being withheld.) Patrick has leukemia, and is losing his hair. Bush saw that members of his security detail had shaved their heads to support the child, then jumped on the barbering bandwagon himself.

In addition to shaving their heads, Secret Service members started a website and have held fundraisers for his care. The boy is in treatment and his prognosis is good.

Patrick's illness undoubtedly struck a chord with Bush and wife Barbara, who lost their 3-year-old daughter, Robin, to leukemia almost 60 years ago. But Bush probably would have done it regardless. He is, even old rivals and media antagonists admit, a very fine man.

In and out of his political life, Bush hearkens back to an age of patrician decorum and kindly propriety. Yet he is a free spirit, as illustrated by his repeated skydiving at an age when bingo is more common.

Bush was only a one-term president, yet he is beloved. His post-presidency is dedicated to family and charitable works. Some of those works have been in concert with his old rival, Bill Clinton. Now using a wheelchair and getting frail, Bush reminds us of a time when politics could be conducted with compromise, and without name calling.

The pictures, of Patrick on Bush's lap, are delightfully candid. The ex-president sports a childish grin. The child, fighting for life, looks serious, clutching his toy cars, wondering what all the fuss is about.