Monday 18 December 2017

Former first lady Nancy Reagan 'is once again with man she loved' after death aged 94 from heart failure

Ronald Reagan and US First Lady Nancy Reagan welcoming to the White House Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1985. Photo: Getty
Ronald Reagan and US First Lady Nancy Reagan welcoming to the White House Princess Diana and Prince Charles in 1985. Photo: Getty

Harriet Alexander

Nancy Reagan, the former first lady of the US, died yesterday at home in Los Angeles at the age of 94.

A much-loved figure in America, Mrs Reagan - who, like her husband, moved from being a Hollywood star to living in the White House - died from congestive heart failure.

"She is once again with the man she loved," said Michael Reagan, her step son.

Tributes were flowing in last night from a wide range of friends, illustrating the remarkable impact she had on American life. Joan Collins spoke warmly of her friend, and former presidents Jimmy Carter, George HW and George W Bush all paid tribute.

Donald Trump described her as "an amazing woman", while Arnold Schwarzenegger - who followed her husband's footsteps in moving from actor to California governor - described her as "one of my heroes".

"She served as first lady with unbelievable power, class and grace and left her mark on the world," he said.

Bill and Hillary Clinton paid tribute to an extraordinary woman who was a "gracious" first lady and a tireless advocate.

"Her strength of character was legendary, particularly when tested by the attempted assassination of the president and throughout his battle with Alzheimer's. She leaves a remarkable legacy of good," they said.

Mrs Reagan will be buried next to her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. He died in 2004 after having Alzheimer's disease for over a decade. Their 52-year marriage was described as one of the great presidential love stories.

Born in New York, Mrs Reagan grew up in Chicago before moving to California to pursue an acting career. She met her future husband in Hollywood, when she was blacklisted for suspected communist sympathies and she turned to Reagan, then president of the Screen Actor's Guild, for advice. The couple married in 1952.

"My life began the day I married," she said.

The couple had two children, Patti and Ron, and also helped raise the two children from his first marriage.

When her husband was elected in 1981, Mrs Reagan remained his staunchest supporter, unafraid to ruffle feathers in her bid to protect him.

On moving into the White House, she renovated extensively, spending $209,000 (€190,000) on a 4,732-piece set of china, which caused outrage in struggling America.

Public opinion was also swayed by accusations that Mrs Reagan had a frosty personality, often consulted astrologers, and ordered the dismissal of White House chief of staff Donald Regan in 1987.

But she won the people over, in particular with her campaign against drug use among young people.

The Reagans left the White House in 1989 and returned to California. With her husband ailing, in 2001, Nancy Reagan was asked by Larry King whether she felt that fate was against her.

"No, not at all," she said. "When you balance it out, I think I had a pretty fabulous life."

Irish Independent

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