Staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley will work Tuesday on preparing the funeral of Nancy Reagan, who will be buried Friday next to the 40th president, with whom she had a love affair spanning five decades.
U.S. flags on public buildings across the country were lowered to half- staff in her memory Monday, and officials announced that funeral services, which be attended by Michelle Obama and former President George W. Bush, will be held Friday for the former first lady, who died in her sleep Sunday at her Bel Air home at the age of 94.
Following a directive from President Barack Obama, the U.S. flag was lowered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, where Nancy Reagan will be laid to rest next to her husband.
“I think it’s been well-documented the extraordinary love that she had for her husband, and the extraordinary comfort and strength she provided him during really hard times,” Obama said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “As somebody who is lucky enough to have an extraordinary partner in my life as well, I know how much she meant not just to President Reagan but to the country as a whole.
“He was lucky to have her,” Obama said. “… She will be missed.”
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation announced that funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the library. The service will be closed to the public. A list of expected attendees has not yet been announced, but the White House confirmed that first lady Michelle Obama will among them.
Nancy Reagan will lie in repose at the Reagan library from 1 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, giving people a chance to pay their respects. No parking will be allowed at the library. People who want to pay their respects will need to park at the former Bank of America property at 400 National Way, Simi Valley, and take a shuttle.
Foundation officials noted that security will be tight, so people should not bring large bags, cameras or strollers. Gifts and flowers will only be accepted at the bottom of Presidential Drive and at the shuttle pickup location.
According to the foundation, Nancy Reagan requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Ronald Reagan Memorial Fund at www.reaganlibrary.com.
The Reagan library will remain closed to the public until 10 a.m. Sunday.
Speaking on CNN Sunday, the library’s Jim Highbush said the memorial events are expected to rival those for Ronald Reagan in 2004, when an estimated 250,000 people went to the hilltop Reagan Library to pay respects to the two- term president.
“It will be very, very similar,” Highbush said. “There will be an opportunity for those in the public who would like to pay respects to walk by to see her coffin; and then towards the end of the week we will have a funeral service, where she will be buried next to President Reagan.”
Dignitaries expected to attend include former president George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, Highbush said.
A fierce protector of her husband’s presidential legacy, the woman behind the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign and the first lady known for tasteful glamour at the White House, Nancy Reagan died of congestive heart failure while asleep at the Bel Air home where she had lived since 1989, Ronald Reagan Foundation spokeswoman Joanne Drake said.
Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, said in a statement on her website that her mother “had been in poor health for quite a while, and recently had gotten markedly worse, so this wasn’t a surprise.”
“That said, death always feels like a surprise,” she said. “I appreciate the attention and prayers of people I will probably never meet. Just as when my father died, there is comfort in feeling surrounded by gentle thoughts and kind wishes, often sent out by strangers. And just as when my father died, we will honor my mother publicly — stand on the public stage and share as much as we can. Then, when that is completed, we’ll draw the circle in a little tighter and deal with the often complicated map of personal loss.”
Born Anne Frances Robbins in a troubled home in New York City, the future first lady was adopted and gained a new last name from her stepfather, Dr. Loyal Davis, a Chicago physician.
Anne Davis went by the nickname Nancy as she grew up and graduated from Smith College in 1943, did some acting on the Broadway stage and broke into the movies when MGM’s George Cukor gave her a bit part in 1949’s “East Side, West Side.” The studio changed her first name to Nancy.
After the name Nancy Davis was printed in a newspaper letter supporting blacklisted scriptwriters, she sought the help of the Screen Actors Guild to make it clear that she was not that Nancy Davis, and the listing had been a mistake. Ronald Reagan was the president of the guild, who helped her make sure the studios and public made that distinction.
They married in March 1952, and together purchased a home at 1251 Amalfi Drive, in Pacific Palisades, where they lived until a move to Sacramento in 1966. They had two children together, Patti and Ron Jr., and she also helped raise Ronald Reagan’s two children with his first wife, Jane Wyman.
“Hellcats Of the Navy” in 1957 was the only movie they appeared together in, but she continued to act in TV and minor movie roles.
But her biggest role turned out to be as Ronald Reagan’s adviser, counselor and protector when he was in public life, and later, serving as his chief caregiver after he became stricken by Alzheimer’s disease. Reagan died in June 2004.
—City News Service
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