VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A local woman’s life ran parallel to the Bush family for decades, until they finally crossed paths more than 20 years ago.

Virginia Byler, born and raised in Virginia Beach, remembered fond memories of the Bush family on the day of George H.W. Bush’s passing.

"They were real people, you could identify with them. They weren’t high and mighty people," said Byler.

She felt especially connected to the Bush family after reading Barbara Bush’s memoir, where the former First Lady wrote about the time she and her husband lived in Virginia Beach.

Nearly 50 years before moving the White House, the Bushes lived in Virginia Beach during his time as a Naval aviator. George and Barbara Bush rented a small basement apartment tucked beneath the Selden Hall, a now-historic home near the Oceanfront.

After reading that the former President and his wife lived right down the street from her, Byler decided to write a letter to Barbara Bush.

“I told her, ‘I know exactly where you used to live and I think I’ll start telling people we're best friends,’” said Byler.

“I wrote her and told her that my son worked in the White House for President Reagan, and that his office was next door to George (H.W.) Bush.

She didn't expect the former First Lady to respond, but she did. As soon as Byler heard George H.W. Bush had passed away, Byler immediately began scouring her drawers in search of the letter. It’s not just any letter, this one was personally signed by the Former First lady in 1997.

It said:

“Dear Virginia Byler, thanks so much for your special message. We certainly share some interesting similarities. Most importantly, large families we love dearly. It was kind of you to write and share your thoughts. And I so appreciate you having been in touch.

With all best wishes, warmly,

Barbara Bush.”

More than two decades later, Byler has kept the letter in perfect condition.

“I just saved it cause I thought it was special that she did that,” said Byler.

It’s a fond memory Byler said she holds close to her heart, especially now.

“They were great people and I think he made a good president,” said Byler. “I'm just sorry to see him go, it's like the end of an era.”