Sir John Swan flew to Washington yesterday for the funeral of former United States president George H.W. Bush.
Sir John, a former premier, knew Mr Bush at first through political contacts, but the two also became friends.
The island’s elder statesman said: “He was a man of great integrity and great honour.
“He believed in the best that could be believed of his fellow man and built a coalition of friends around the world, almost unprecedented for a president.”
Sir John added: “To Bermuda, he was a dear friend who paid many visits here, before he was president and afterwards, as well as when he was a president. He even flew kites here on Good Friday.
Mr Bush, who was 94, died at his home in Houston last Friday.
A state funeral will be held at the Washington National Cathedral before his body is transported back to Texas for another service and burial.
Sir John first met Mr Bush when he was vice-president to Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s as he negotiated the tax treaty with Washington which allowed the island to experience a boom in international business.
He added: “He was a true example of what we want in a world leader.”
Sir John added that Mr Bush was “fortunate” to have the support of his wife, Barbara, who died, aged 92, in April.
He said: “He had a wife who was very smart, very devoted to her family and very supportive of his objectives throughout his life.”
Sir John said that the negotiations he started with the US in 1982 concluded with a satisfactory treaty in 1998.
He added: “It was quite a feat. I give him and Mr Reagan and their colleagues great respect for the final result of that process.
“At the same time, we were able to reach across the political spectrum of friendships that transcended all other issues and came to a consensus on what was best for everybody.”
Sir John added that, on the global stage, Mr Bush had “pulled together” the multinational military coalition that ejected Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and his army from Kuwait in 1991.
He said: “I miss him as a person and as a leader.
“He had a lot of years in and was one of the oldest living former presidents. We will all miss him, no question about it.
“I am honoured that we were invited and I’m sure that honour is extended to Bermuda, not just me.
“Bermuda and the US have played a major role, particularly during the Second World War and the Cold War. We’ve been allies in the interests of democracy and freedom for a long time and our interests have always been in parallel with each other.”
Sir John highlighted the US Customs pre-clearance enjoyed by Bermuda as another example of the good relationship between the two countries.
He said: “We must continue to firm up the relationship with the United States.
“It doesn’t matter which president is in office. We’re talking about a country and that’s the important thing.”
Other Bermudians yesterday remembered their meetings with Mr Bush, who visited Bermuda in 1990 for a summit with Margaret Thatcher, the British Prime Minister at the time.
Craig Ferguson was only 9 when he was selected at random to present kites to the two leaders and fly them with them.
Mr Ferguson, now 39, was a pupil at Port Royal Primary School when he and a girl pupil were picked to meet the leaders.
He said: “I presented to Margaret Thatcher and she presented to George Bush.”
But Mr Ferguson said he was not aware of the significance of the event at the time.
He added: “For me it was just the fun of flying kites.”
Mr Ferguson said he still remembered an autographed copy of the photograph taken with Mr Bush arriving at his parents’ home months later.
He added: “That picture is still at my parents’ house.”
Mr Ferguson said: “It was cool to be a part of, definitely something I won’t forget.”