The past week has reminded Americans that we lost a giant in Sen. Robert Dole when he died early Sunday morning. His heroism in World War II, his robust career in the Senate, his passionate presidential campaign, and, above all, his humble statesmanship will make for a distinguished civic legacy. History will judge him favorably for his accomplishments. But as his neighbor for the past 14 years, I saw firsthand a man who judged himself based on the support he gave to those around him, very much including the great joy in his life: his wife, Elizabeth Hanford.

Bob and Elizabeth Dole had a romance made for Hollywood movies, real and robust and filled with laughter to the very end. Many of us fondly remember the former senator’s many jokes and one-liners, followed by Elizabeth’s laugh and the shaking of her head, exclaiming, “Oh, Bob!” They both had a sparkle in their eye, his perhaps more mischievous than hers, and their gaze remained on each other for 46 years. Watching their romance in the twilight years of their marriage was extraordinary to behold. Years of being by each other’s side in politics turned to devoted caregiving and support in the final phase of Bob’s life.

By the time Bob and Elizabeth met, they both had established careers but realized they had found their equal. After their wedding in 1975, Elizabeth enthusiastically supported Bob’s political career for over 20 years, before she decided to run for political office herself. At every Senate confirmation for the Cabinet posts Elizabeth held, Bob was there, beaming with pride (and jokes) to introduce his exemplary wife. Bob reached the heights of political power in Washington, becoming leader of the Senate and the Republican nominee for president, but transitioned smoothly to the role of supporting husband when, just a few years after his doomed campaign for president, he championed Elizabeth’s candidacy for the highest office in the land, though it was also the one he failed to obtain.

The Army combat veteran who braved the battlefields of Italy to fight the Nazis also had a soft spot for nature’s small creatures. We attended several of Bob and Elizabeth’s birthday parties for their dogs, which were really an excuse to get the neighborhood dogs together to play and be spoiled by the animal-loving couple. I’ll never forget the first party I attended with my sweet Shih Tzu Napoleon, when Bob loudly exclaimed, “I really hope too many of the neighbors don’t hear us — they’ll think I’ve gone crazy!” Bob and Elizabeth were also devoted attendees and sponsors of the Bark Ball in Washington, D.C., a charity event to support the Humane Rescue Alliance. Nothing delighted Bob more than seeing a German shepherd in an evening gown or a Pekingese in a tuxedo, knowing that so many defenseless animals would be rescued from inhumane conditions.

Besides Bob’s many charitable endeavors, his devoted support of Elizabeth's foundation to help military caregivers, and his and Elizabeth’s unending support for America’s veterans, Bob often found ways for simple, everyday human kindness. The Doles celebrated many of their birthdays with “reverse birthdays,” where they would visit a charity called “Sarah’s Circle” and donate gifts and host a party for the elderly and those in need. They would turn a day for celebrating themselves into a celebration of others. One Thanksgiving, Bob quickly changed holiday plans so that he and Elizabeth could take to dinner some young people who were from underserved communities and needed some extra love and attention. Despite achieving fame and political power, Bob never failed to make every individual he met feel worthy of his time and attention.

That fame and power came from Bob Dole’s having become leader of the Senate, the Republican nominee for president, and one of the most visible members of the greatest generation, but his own expectations of himself were built around his devotion to Elizabeth, as well as his willingness to always carve out plenty of his time to rescue dogs and to make others welcome in his world. That he surpassed those expectations may be a greater measure of his legacy.

Morgan Ortagus is a board member for the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and a former U.S. Department of State spokeswoman.