With Hurricane Irma about to bear down on South Florida at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Gary Bush – a well-loved Miami-Dade teacher, community stalwart and father of former Miami Hurricane and current Chicago Bear Deon Bush – took his last breath in the hospice unit of University of Miami Hospital.
“I was the only one with him,’’ said Michele Bush, his wife of 27 years and the assistant principal at the Center for International Education, a Miami-Dade public magnet school in Homestead. “The kids were home, safe and all boarded up. I think Gary’s passing was his way of telling me, ‘I’m tired. You need to go home with the kids.’’’
Bush, who died from a rare form of liver cancer, fought the cancer for more than four years. He was 55.
“I miss him so much,’’ said Michele, who met Gary when she was a sophomore at the University of Miami in 1986 and he was a graduate of Mississippi Valley State, where he played wide receiver with Pro Football Hall of Fame member Jerry Rice. “He was so good-hearted. He would do anything for anyone.
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“I don’t care how sick he was, if you were in need, he’d get up and help you. You wouldn’t even know how bad his liver was hurting.’’
Bush, a longtime Miami Southridge High School special education and science teacher known throughout Miami-Dade for his generosity in helping young athletes in need, started Team Miami in 2008 for teenagers who wanted to play AAU basketball but weren’t quite good enough to make the high-profile teams that often receive funds and equipment from national sponsors. He spent his own money over the years to provide teens with registration fees, uniforms and equipment so they could play.
“I would like people to keep supporting my family and continue to pray for me,’’ Bush told the Miami Herald just before his first cancer surgery in 2013. “I want to dedicate the rest of my life to do what I can to help people in need.’’
Florida City police chief Pete Taylor, father of late UM and Washington Redskin star Sean Taylor, told the Herald after Bush was diagnosed with cancer that “the Bushes show their kids the right way to do things, and Gary amplifies that to the community with his spirit and generosity. He cares about the people.’’
Deon Bush, 24, a Miami Columbus High grad also known for his giving character and abundant community service, was named as a UM player to the AllState American Football Coaches Association’s Good Works Team, one of the most significant off-the-field honors in college football. Michele Bush praised the Bears for being supportive and giving Deon time off to see his father last week. She said Deon was on his way home Thursday night.
Gary Bush, who grew up in Panama City, is also survived by his son Gary Jr., 27, known as GJ, who played football at Purdue and helped care for his father the past few months; and Nya, 17, a basketball player and senior at Southridge.
The public is invited to a viewing from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights, where from about 6:30 to 7 p.m. friends are invited to say words of tribute to Bush.
The funeral service, also open to the public, is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Second Baptist Church.
“Gary was just one of a kind,’’ said Michele Bush, who still doesn’t have power after Hurricane Irma. “We have so many people supporting us now that it hasn’t really hit us yet. It will soon enough.’’