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Friends in high places


Local radio personality writes book about friendship with former president

Don’t let the dust jacket of the new book “I Call Him ‘Mr. President:’ Stories of Golf, Fishing and Life with My Friend George H. W. Bush” fool you.

It features a photograph of golf pro Ken Raynor playing golf with the former president, and it is misleading — according to the co-author and Lansing radio host Michael Patrick Shiels.

“The book is not about golfing, fishing or politics. It’s about friendships,” Shiels said.

In this case it’s about the decades-long friendship between President George H. W. Bush and Raynor, who was the long-serving golf professional at the Cape Arundel Golf Club in Kennebunkport, Maine — the summer home of the Bushes.

Shiels said the book itself originated with a friendship he developed with Raynor eight years ago when he broadcast his program the “Big Show” from the president’s charity golf event.

“In talking with Raynor and listening to his stories, I thought it would be interesting to know what it was like to be a friend of a president,” he said.

Shiels began his project by mining Raynor’s attic, filled with crates that held pictures and notes from the president.

“The amount of notes he wrote to Raynor is amazing,” Shiels said.

After painstakingly sorting through those physical notes, he then recorded hours of conversations with Raynor about the times he spent fishing, golfing and just hanging out with the former president.

The book paints President Bush as a regular guy, except for the Secret Service team hanging around.

The golf course itself is a character in the book a course that Shiels calls an “antique.”

“People are surprised when they see it for the first time. The ‘clubhouse’ is a little cottage with a screen door. It’s also a public course.”

But Raynor was often reminded that his friend was the president. Once, during a dinner party at the White House, with both the first lady and Bush, the president proposed a toast to the ceasefire announcement that would end Operation Desert Storm.

Raynor writes that instances like these provided a dose “of reality of who my friend really is.”

The author also relates numerous stories of the times he appeared in media photographs, golfing with Bush and often accompanied by his son George. In one photograph taken by Raynor, the two Bush men are shown “anguishing over a missed putt.”

Raynor writes of seeing Bush as more of a father and a friend than anything else. When the first lady asks why he doesn’t call the President George instead of Mr. President, he replies, “I don’t call my father by his first name.” The Bushes’ hospitality extended to all of Raynor’s family too — Raynor’s son Kyle took his first steps in the Lincoln bedroom.


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