Nancy Reagan, her era and marriage recalled at funeral

Associated Press


Nancy Reagan is once again with her beloved Ronnie.

The former first lady’s life was celebrated Friday by 1,000 invited guests who gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to pay final tribute to her and to the enduring love she and her husband shared during a storied 52-year marriage.

The funeral also marked one of the last chapters of a fading political era that stirs nostalgia among American conservatives. Without Mrs. Reagan, her son said, the Republican renaissance of the 1980s might not have happened.

“There would be no Ronald Reagan Presidential Library without a President Ronald Reagan, and there likely wouldn’t have been a President Ronald Reagan without a Nancy Reagan,” said Ron Reagan, delivering the last of several eulogies during the 90-minute service.

Mourners from the top ranks of Washington and Hollywood heard how President Reagan was generally affable and trusting, but Mrs. Reagan was made of different cloth.

She could be gracious and quick with a laugh, but also fiercely protective of her husband and sometimes quick to anger at any perceived slight directed at him.

“I think we can admit that she was not always the easiest person to deal with,” her son said, drawing laughter from an audience filled with politicians, heads of state, actors, musicians, a former president and several first ladies.

“She could be difficult. She could be demanding. She could be a bit excessive. Truly, she could be a royal pain in the ass when she wanted to be,” he continued. “But usually only so my father didn’t have to be.

“If you happen to run into the ghost of Don Regan sometime, you can just ask him,” he added, referring to the former White House chief of staff Mrs. Reagan pushed her husband to fire after the two feuded over policy issues.

“Occasionally I’ve thought that even God might not have the guts to argue with Nancy Reagan,” quipped the couple’s daughter, Patti Davis.

Each speaker also noted the couple’s enduring love.

“When they were together, he hid love notes around the house for her to find,” said another Reagan former chief of staff, James Baker. “She reciprocated by secreting little notes in jellybeans in his suitcase.

“Ronald and Nancy Reagan were defined by their love for each other,” Baker continued. “They were as close to being one person as it is possible for any two people to be.”

President Reagan spoke in public so warmly, and so often, about his wife, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney recalled, that he once told Reagan he was making every other world leader look bad in front of their wives.

“Well, Brian,” he said Reagan told him with a smile, “That’s your problem.”

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