Former first lady Nancy Reagan dies at 94
The former first lady, who suffered heart failure at her home in Los Angeles, will be buried next to her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, her spokeswoman Joanne Drake said.
Late in life, Reagan earned praise for many of the very qualities that saw her savaged by critics during Ronald Reagan’s two White House terms from 1981-1989 — her fierce protectiveness and outsized influence on the president.
Perceived as regal and cold, she was feared by White House aides who often found themselves butting heads with her over policy and personnel appointments.
She made her own mark as first lady with her signature “Just Say No” drug awareness campaign, launched in 1982.
But after she left the White House, as she nursed Reagan through his ten-year descent into Alzheimer’s disease until his death in 2004, America softened its view of the former movie starlet.
Warm tributes noting Nancy Reagan’s steadfast dedication to her husband poured in, with President Barack Obama and wife Michelle calling her a “proud example.”
“We remain grateful for Nancy Reagan’s life, thankful for her guidance, and prayerful that she and her beloved husband are together again,” the Obamas said in a statement.
Former first lady Barbara Bush said she was “totally devoted to President Reagan, and we take comfort that they will be reunited once more.”
“Mrs Reagan was fiercely loyal to her beloved husband, and that devotion was matched only by her devotion to our country,” said her son, former president George W Bush.
“Her influence on the White House was complete and lasting.”
Former California governor and action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger described her as “one of my heroes” who “served as first lady with unbelievable power, class and grace.”
President Reagan is viewed as something of a patron saint of conservatives and the patriarch of the modern Republican Party, and the diminutive former first lady has wielded considerable political power as a succession of presidential hopefuls have sought her endorsement.
Born Anne Frances Robbins in New York on July 6, 1921 — and given the name Nancy by her mother, Edith Robbins –Reagan’s car salesman father left the family when she was young.
Edith toured the country as an actress, marrying prominent neurosurgeon Loyal Davis, and settling the family in Chicago.
Inspired by her mother, Nancy worked as an actress on stage and in film and television, and met Ronald Reagan while under contract with MGM.