Donald Leidel enjoyed a 41-year career in government service, mainly with the U.S. Department of State. He traveled the globe and worked in such areas as Austria, Germany, Argentina, Mexico and Bahrain. Now 90, Leidel lives in The Landings in Sarasota with his wife, Bev, of 64 years. The Leidels have three children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and they are both still actively involved in politics.

"I graduated from law school in 1951 and was practicing law in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. A recruiter (a Central Intelligence agent) came along and wanted me to go to Washington, D.C. So I spent the first 11 years with the CIA, including three years in the Air Force, and the next 30 years with the State Department. I joined the State Department in 1964 and retired in 1994.

In December 1981, I was notified that my name was one of 15 being considered for the position of ambassador to Bahrain. I had been attached to the State Department for more than 10 years, and I had served two tours in Europe and two tours in South America. I had degrees in law, political science and U.S. history.

When I was nominated for the position, I was the deputy director of management operations at the State Department.

Bahrain was unlike any other place I’d been. Bev and I were made to feel at home. The cultural adaptation was easier than in any other country. I was also a tennis buff and, during my tenure as ambassador, Vice President and Mrs. George Bush came to visit Bahrain for the first time. I was responsible for setting up the schedule, determining the length of their stay and making recommendations (the White House makes the final decisions).

As it happened, I had been playing tennis from time to time with the foreign minister. I knew Vice President Bush enjoyed the sport so I suggested that, on the first day, they start out with tennis. Initially, I received a cool response from the Bushes' advance team who, at first, didn’t think the recommendation was appropriate.

At the same time, I talked to the foreign minister who was somewhat interested but hesitant (I felt he was really more concerned with his tennis ability). Finally, I managed to persuade both of them that they need not worry; this would be a good groundbreaker.

In the end, it was approved.

The Bushes arrived and were escorted to the emir’s palace. As the first item on the agenda was tennis, the vice president changed into shorts and, an hour later, he was on the courts.

He first played with Don Craig, his national security assistant in the Middle East, against the interior minister and the foreign minister.

I was playing on the next court with Bob Pelitro (later the assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs) against two young Bahrainis.

The vice president and his partner won the set. He then suggested that they change partners. Bush played with the foreign minister and they won. He then played with the interior minister and they won. So they all won, with George Bush.

I know this to be a fact (confirmed later by his advance team and staff) that, of all of the places Bush visited, this was the highlight of his trip. I also received a handwritten note from the vice president. I like to think that starting out on the tennis courts broke the ice."

Abby Weingarten may be contacted via email at