Nancy Reagan mourned by family and friends at California funeral
Published 11/03/2016 | 20:51
Close friends and family have remembered Nancy Reagan as more than a first lady, recalling at her funeral service how she and husband Ronald Reagan made up "two halves of a circle".
Inseparable in life, the pair were reunited in death in side-by-side graves at the Reagan's presidential library.
During a service filled with poignant and often humorous memories, each speaker came back to the couple's love story.
"When they were together, he hid love notes around the house for her to find," said Mr Reagan's 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," Mr Baker added. "They were as close to being one person as it is possible for any two people to be."
Mr Reagan spoke in public so warmly, and so often, about his wife, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney recalled, that he once told Mr Reagan he was making every other world leader look bad in front of their wives.
"Well, Brian," he said the president told him with a smile, "That's your problem."
Mrs Reagan, for her part, was her husband's chief protector. When former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw once questioned the hard-luck story of the president's early life, Mr Brokaw recalled how she was so angry that Mr Reagan's staff advised him to stay away from the White House until she calmed down.
As speakers eulogised Mrs Reagan to the 1,000 invited guests gathered in a tent behind the library, rain began to fall.
Among those in the front row were first lady Michelle Obama, who was seated next to former president George W Bush. Hillary Clinton sat next to Mr Bush's wife, Laura.
The sprawling, Spanish mission-style library is located between the Reagans' post-White House home in the upscale Bel Air section of Los Angeles and Rancho del Cielo, the "ranch in the sky" where the Reagans spent their leisure time, sometimes on horseback, in the rugged mountains near Santa Barbara.
The guest list for the funeral tells a story about their lives, which stretched from Hollywood's Golden Age to the California statehouse during Mr Reagan's time as governor to Washington. Four of the five living first ladies and relatives of every president dating to John Kennedy were expected to attend.
The memorial service brought together Democrat and Republican, an unusual tableau at a time of deep division in Washington and on the 2016 campaign trail.
Mrs Reagan's two children, Patti Davis and Ronald Prescott Reagan, both spoke at the funeral, which also included choirs and a Marine Corps band.
On Wednesday and Thursday at the library, more than 5,500 mourners and Reagan faithful filed slowly past the former first lady's closed coffin, blanketed with white roses and peonies, Mrs Reagan's favourite flower.
Mrs Reagan, who died on Sunday at 94, planned the smallest details of her funeral. She selected the funeral's flower arrangements, the music to be played by a Marine Corps band and the list of guests invited to the private memorial.
The library site, where the 40th president was buried in 2004, provides sweeping views of horse country dotted with oaks and, on a clear day, a vista to the Pacific.