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July 1, 2006 by  
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Mother and daughter work together to make a difference

Denise Bush Bahr and Olga Flora Bush are one of Houston’s most dynamic mother-daughter duos. With the help of their husbands, they are enriching the lives of fellow Houstonians through their charitable and philanthropic work. And, they throw a great party!

Pulling rank
“Denise is a wonderful daughter,” Olga says. “We like the same things. We love art and music, and we love our God.” But surely they had some difficult years? “No,” Olga says, “even through what are usually difficult high school years, we never had a bad relationship. Now, there were times I had to pull rank, but not often.” “When I went to college, I was amazed by how many of my friends and sorority sisters didn’t want to go home for the holidays,” Denise recalls. “I couldn’t imagine not wanting to go home.” Denise remembers the day in her 20s when, “My attitude changed to a friendship and respect for my parents. It was like looking through a window. I was late for a party, and they were there when I stepped into the room. They were engaged in deep, animated conversations having a wonderful time and I thought, ‘Wow, what neat people!'”

Family history
Olga was baptized as “Olga Flora de la Santisima Trinidad.” That means Olga Flora of the Holy Trinity. Olga’s mother dedicated Olga to God – and that dedication is a deep part of who she is. Olga began life on the family’s Costa Rican coffee and cattle “finca” (ranch) on the slopes of the Poas Volcano. Her love of flowers and horses began there, and some of her favorite memories are of her Spanish and French grandmothers. But when Olga was 9, her father moved the family to Los Angeles, where he established a plastics printing business.

Enter Gerald Bush
Olga met Gerald Bush at the University of Southern California. He was studying to become a geologist and delighted her with his tales of playing French horn for movie orchestras. After the outbreak of WWII, film studios were desperate for musicians, even college students like Gerry. After two years of chaperoned courtship, they married. “I got an MRS degree, and Mr. Bush graduated with honors and a degree in geology,” she says. The young couple moved often, as Gerry pursued his career in the oil industry. They lived in Odessa, Monahans, Dallas, Houston and back and forth from Texas to California. Denise was the first child, and then they had Randall two years later.

Take a Child to Work Day
“We always had fun,” Olga says of their family life. “We always did things together as a family.” It almost seems like they invented Take a Child to Work Day. “We’d go on geological expeditions to Hawaii or out to Gerry’s oil rigs,” she says. “Our children knew what we did as individuals and took part in it.” In California, the children learned about the Head Start program because Olga was a volunteer teacher. They also learned about fundraising because Olga helped to build the first Catholic church in Hacienda Heights. “Our children were always part of the whole picture of our lives,” Olga says. “Problems were discussed with them, not at them. We treated them as young adults. Our family was a tight bond, and we extend that bond out into the community.”

Houston becomes home
Denise spent two years at the University of Southern California in pre-med but decided to move to Houston when work brought her dad back to the Bayou City. She graduated from the University of Houston. On New Year’s Eve 10 years ago, she and Houston native, Philip Bahr, married. “He’s a lot like my Dad,” she reveals. That means he is patient, fun and supportive. Over the past decade, Denise has been a charity dynamo, chairing a vast number of events. Even though it is through Denise’s name, usually, as chair, the event is always a family affair. Olga helps in every aspect, and Philip and Gerry are supportive in whatever way they are needed. This year saw Denise and Olga as co-chairs of the Moores School of Music Dinner Concert Gala, “Making Overtures.” In 2005, Denise chaired the Ballet Ball, “Shades of White.” Olga was officially decorations chair, but Denise says, “She’s always my co-chair.” They have chaired galas for the Houston Grand Opera Opening Night, The Society for Performing Arts and Alpha Delta Pi. Additionally, the Houston Symphony, Asia Society, Brookwood Community and many more organizations have benefited from the family bond that extends outward.

Summer time
This summer will find Olga studying hard, so that she will be certified to continue with one of her favorite volunteer organizations, Kids Hope USA. Kids Hope is a fabulous mentoring program for at-risk kids. The family’s church, Our Lady of Walsingham, is teamed up with an elementary school through Kids Hope USA. Here, the teacher tells the mentor what help is needed in each situation. In this case, Olga is mentoring a second grade girl, and they are working on the child’s communication skills and confidence. Denise thinks she’s going to take a rest this summer. But, if past is prologue, Denise will be studying too.

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