Nancy Reagan hosts the First Ladies Conference on Drug Abuse at the White House, 1985. Photo via Wikipedia
Nancy Reagan hosts the First Ladies Conference on Drug Abuse at the White House, 1985. Photo via Wikipedia

After thousands of people slowly made their way past Nancy Reagan’s casket this week, the former first lady’s funeral will be held at her late husband’s presidential library Friday in Simi Valley.

She died of congestive heart failure in her sleep at her Bel Air home Sunday at age 94. She will be buried Friday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum next to the nation’s 40th president and former California governor, with whom she had a love affair spanning more than 50 years.

The ceremony, which will be attended by about 1,000 invited guests, is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. The Reagan Library will remain closed to the general public until 10 a.m. Sunday.

In the meantime, thousands of people made their way to the library Wednesday and Thursday to pay their final respects to the former first lady, whose flower-draped casket was placed in the lobby for visitors to pass by. An estimated 3,000 people attended a six-hour viewing on Wednesday. At least 2,000 more were believed to have made the trip — involving a shuttle bus ride from a remote parking area — Thursday.

According to the Reagan Foundation, Nancy Reagan requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Ronald Reagan Memorial Fund at www.reaganlibrary.com.

Nancy Reagan’s funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the library, where she will be laid to rest within inches of her husband. The funeral will be private, but will be televised. It will also be streamed live on the Internet at www.youtube.com/reaganfoundation and www.reaganfoundation.com/memorial. The stream will begin at 10:30 a.m. and continue until 1 p.m.

The Reagan Presidential Foundation this morning released the program for the ceremony. It reflected that former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney will read a letter that Ronald Reagan wrote to Nancy Reagan, and broadcaster Diane Sawyer will read a section from the Gospel of John.

Also scheduled to deliver “reflections” are former Secretary of State James Baker, broadcaster Tom Brokaw and Nancy Reagan’s children, Patti Davis and Ronald Reagan.

Opera soprano Ana Marie Martinez will sing.

No role in the ceremony was listed for Michael Reagan, the adopted son of Ronald Reagan and his first wife, the late actress Jane Wyman.

Nancy Reagan, a one-time actress, helped plan many of the details of her memorial and funeral service, from the pallbearers to the guest list to the exact location of her interment at her husband’s side.

A trio of former first ladies, including Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, are expected to attend the service, along with current first lady Michelle Obama. President Barack Obama will not attend. He is scheduled to be in Austin, Texas.

Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, are expected, along with former first lady Rosalynn Carter, according to Reagan Library officials. Also expected are Tricia Nixon Cox, a daughter of President Richard Nixon; Steven Ford, the youngest son of President Gerald Ford; Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving child of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy; and Lynda and Luci Johnson, daughters of President Lyndon Johnson. Reagan Foundation officials says the guest list means there will be a representative from every living first family.

Other expected guests, according to the Reagan Foundation, are Capt. Christopher Bolt, the commander of the USS Ronald Reagan; Katie Couric; Sam Donaldson; Chris Matthews; Newt and Callista Gingrich; Wayne Newton; Anjelica Huston; Tom Selleck; Bo Derek; Gary Sinise; Yakov Smirnoff; John Stamos; Larry King; Melissa Rivers; Tina Sinatra; and Mr. T, the burly actor who took an active role in Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign in the 1980s.

Gov. Jerry Brown will also attend, along with former Govs. Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader.

On Wednesday morning, Nancy Reagan’s casket was at the Gates, Kingsley & Gates Moeller Murphy funeral home in Santa Monica, where relatives gathered around 9 a.m. for a private service conducted by the Rev. Stuart A. Kenworthy, the vicar of Washington National Cathedral and the man who will lead Friday’s funeral service. He was assisted by the Rev. Donn Moomaw, the Reagan’s family minister.

Shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nancy Reagan’s casket was placed in a large black hearse to begin the trek to the Reagan Presidential Library. Her casket was attended by eight pallbearers — all U.S. Secret Service agents who worked for her or her husband over the years.

As the motorcade made its way north on the San Diego (405) Freeway, onlookers could be seen on overpasses to watch the procession below. The Los Angeles Fire Department displayed large American flags at a pair of locations along the route. When the motorcade transitioned to the westbound Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway, about a dozen LAFD firefighters stood at attention along the shoulder of the roadway and saluted as the hearse passed.

Nancy Reagan was the woman behind the “Just Say No” campaign and a first lady known for adding glamour to the White House.

The Reagans were married in March 1952 and lived in Pacific Palisades until they moved to Sacramento in 1966. They had two children together, Patti and Ron Jr., and she also helped raise Ronald Reagan’s two children with Wyman.

Ronald and Nancy Reagan were both actors, but “Hellcats Of the Navy” in 1957 was the only movie in which they appeared together, although she later continued to act in TV and minor movie roles.

Her biggest roles, however, were not on the screen, but as Ronald Reagan’s adviser, counselor and fierce protector when he was in public life, and later, as his chief caregiver after he became stricken by Alzheimer’s disease. Reagan died in June 2004.

—City News Service

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