In the 1980s, when then Vice President George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, were heading down to the Naval Station Norfolk, in Virginia, where Bush was to be honored for his service in the U.S. Navy, Paul Kelly was key to making sure the two were safe.

Kelly, who moved to Orleans in 1997 and is a member of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy board of trustees, was at the time working for the Secret Service and a member of the vice president's detail.

“I was driving the vice president’s limo,” said Kelly. “It was an armored car.”

The event was commemorating the anniversary of when Bush was shot down in the Pacific in September 1944 and was the sole survivor in an operation against the Japanese during World War II, he said.

On the way to the celebration the limo had to navigate a narrow pier, said Kelly, and when they got to the end he had to make a U-turn.

The detail leader who was sitting in the front seat turned to George and Barbara Bush and explained that the driver was about to make a series of difficult turns.

“The bottom line is, I could not make the turn and I had to back up,” said Kelly.

While backing up, there was a fear that the limo would hit the edge of the pier, said Kelly. The detail leader started to get a bit panicky, he said.

In the midst of the dilemma, Bush turned to Kelly and said, “I know we’re here to commemorate me getting shot down in the Pacific but, I didn’t know we were going to do a re-enactment. I really hope we don’t get wet.”

Then Barbara asked, “Will it sink?” and Kelly replied, “like a rock.”

Bush was one of those people who could make a joke and lighten the whole situation, Kelly said. “He had a real sense of humor.”

Kelly said he joined the Secret Service in 1974 and served for over 20 years in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Hawaii. He has a background as a Marine Corps officer under the department of special operations and counterterrorism.

Kelly has a master's degree in Asian studies and speaks Chinese. He accompanied Bush when he was appointed chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China from 1974 to 1975.

“The Bushes loved dogs and always had a dog,” said Kelly. When Bush was in China he had a cocker spaniel named C. Fred Bush, he said.

During that time frame the cultural revolution in China was still happening, Kelly said.

“C. Fred Bush was the only domesticated dog in Beijing and perhaps in all of China,” said Kelly. “He was a real celebrity.”

Kelly said he really got to know the Bush family while serving on the vice president’s detail in the '80s.

“He only knew one gear, and that was high speed,” Kelly said

As his rescue swimmer, Kelly would be in the chase boat following Bush in his boat Fidelity while the family was up in Kennebunkport, Maine. He recalled it being difficult following the speed boat, which was captained by Bush.

“He really knew the water like the back of his hand,” said Kelly. “He had a lot of fun.”

For Dennis resident Michael Skol, George H.W. Bush was the only U.S. president with whom he had any kind of continuing contact.

From 1988 to 1990, when Skol was the deputy assistant secretary of state for South America, he regularly accompanied newly arrived ambassadors to present their credentials in the Oval Office.

President Bush was invariably friendly, knowledgeable and open and clearly wanted to mark the occasion as a memorable one, Skol said.

“He was open and willing to engage with all sorts of people,” he said. “He was extremely intelligent on complicated diplomacy.”

Shortly after Skol arrived in Caracas in the fall of 1990 as the ambassador to Venezuela, President Bush came on a state visit. He stayed at his residence and was by his side the entire time, said Skol.

During his time there, Bush was gracious and included Skol in all manners of conversations even with his national security adviser.

Skol and his wife, Claudia, who was also a foreign service officer, moved to their house on the Cape in 1993.

Skol now runs “Skol & Serna” consortium, which is a leader in training to counter money laundering operations and firewall services for banks, government regulators and private companies.

One anecdotal moment Skol remembers is when the residence staff, cooks, waiters and maids were peering around the corner to look at President Bush when he was conducting some business.

Bush noticed and asked if he could take a photo with them. They said, “si,” and he did.

“I’m not aware of anyone at that rank who would have actually invited that kind of thing,” said Skol. “He was like a long-lost brother coming back. He called you by the first name.”

Skol will never forget the night in 1992 when there was the first attempted coup to overthrow then Venezuelan President Carlos Andre Perez.

He already knew that the president was 100 percent behind the democratic process so as an ambassador he knew how to handle the situation without asking.

Skol attributes that to Bush’s foreign policy.

“It was a great pleasure to watch him work,” said Skol.

— Follow Beth Treffeisen on Twitter: @BTreffeisenCCT.