For 17 months, until he left the job in September 2007, Tony Snow was the White House press secretary, the voice of the Bush administration. Now, he is being remembered and mourned by the president he served, and the reporters who sparred with him in the White House briefing room. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports Snow died Saturday from colon cancer at the age of 53.
The sense of loss was evident in President Bush's voice, as he spoke of the passing of his former press secretary and friend.
"I came to know Tony as a very smart and capable man," said President Bush. "He had good values. He was an honest guy. He had a wonderful sense of humor. He loved to laugh. He loved his country and he loved his family."
Snow had another love. Even on his last day at the White House - when the thinning hair and gaunt face of a cancer patient were so evident - he stressed how much he loved his job.
"Everybody talks about what a horrible job it is to brief the press," said Tony Snow. "I love these briefings!"
Tony Snow had two careers that somehow intertwined. He served two presidents - both the current President Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush. And both before and between his stints at the White House, he was a journalist.
He brought the skills of a newspaper columnist and talk-show host to the press secretary's office. It was a bit of showmanship - combined with an inquisitive spirit - that led to packed briefing rooms during his tenure, and some spirited sparring with reporters.
Tony Snow was treated for colon cancer a year before taking the job. Ten months into his tenure, the disease returned.
He left for about five weeks of treatment. When he came back, it was evident the disease was taking its toll. In September of last year, he resigned and called his last briefing.
"This job has been the most fun I have ever had, the most satisfying, fulfilling job," he said. "I am sorry I have got to leave it. But I have got to say it has been a real honor and pleasure to work with everybody in this room."
He got a standing ovation that day - not just in the press room, but from the entire White House staff.
Just hours after his passing, Vice President Dick Cheney taped an appearance on the television talk show Snow once hosted. He told the Fox News Sunday program that Tony Snow was a one-of-a kind press secretary.
"He had this rare combination of intelligence, of commitment and loyalty to the President that he was working for, but also this great love of going out behind that podium and doing battle with what in effect were his former colleagues," said Vice President Cheney. "And it was this capacity that he had to be unfailingly polite, to maintain good humor under the most trying of circumstances, and do it, I thought, better and more effectively than anybody I have ever seen in that post."
Tony Snow conducted his fight against cancer largely in public, saying he wanted to encourage others with the disease to fight back. He lost his own long battle early Saturday at a Washington, DC. hospital.