Augusta historic preservationist, gardener Marie 'Frenchie' Bush dies at 85

Marie "Frenchie" Bush worked to preserve historic buildings in Augusta and to document the area's many historic gardens.

 Marie “Frenchie” Bush, a historic preservationist and former president of the Garden Club of America, died Monday at Trinity Hospital. She was 85.

An Augusta native, she founded Historic Augusta Inc. and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation with her husband, Bill, who preceded her in death, and was instrumental in establishing Historic Augusta as a leading preservation organization in the Southeast, those who knew her said.

For her role in saving many historic buildings in Augusta, including the Old Government House, the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art and the Old Medical College of Georgia, Bush was highlighted in Movers
& Shakers in Georgia in 1978 and
received the Garden Club of America Historic Preservation Award for Zone VIII.

Ross Snellings, a broker at Sand Hills Real Estate and a family friend, said he will remember her as a vocal champion for preserving the past.

“She was passionate about so many things but most of all, she was passionate about historic preservation and saving historic structures,” he said.

Bush’s zeal for celebrating the past preceded her, he said. When a section of brick-paved Lombardy Court in Forest Hills neighborhood was paved over with blacktop years ago, Snellings said, the project was scheduled during Bush’s vacation so she couldn’t intervene.

“Her reputation for saving the pretty, old things like the brick pavers was well-known,” he said.

Bush’s daughter Gigi Taylor, of Atlanta, said her mother’s greatest legacy was in improving her hometown.

“She leaves behind a better Augusta,” she said. “She was a great encourager.”

Another daughter, Mary Norwood, also of Atlanta, said her mother was not only active in a long list of causes but also could instill a passion for service into others.

“She could get on a stage and talk to people, and everyone leaves thinking, ‘I can do that, I can help,’ ” Norwood said.

Bush’s son Ware, of Atlanta, said his mother’s causes ranged from the gardens of Augusta to St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church, but she approached them all with the same enthusiasm and concern.

“The world was a stage for her, and she played a lot of roles,” he said. “Most of all, they were very sincere.”

One of Bush’s most notable projects was a slideshow documenting Augusta’s many historic gardens, which was later turned over to the Smithsonian Institution. Her son Whatley Bush, of Augusta, said this was a labor of love for her.

“Frenchie loved the city of Augusta,” he said.

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