Nancy Reagan, Her Era and Marriage, Remembered at Funeral

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) -
Ron Reagan, son of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, speaks during the funeral service for the former First Lady at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. on Friday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Ron Reagan, son of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, speaks during the funeral service for the former First Lady at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. on Friday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Nancy Reagan is once again with Ronald.

The former first lady’s life was celebrated Friday by 1,000 invited guests who gathered at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to pay final tribute to her and to one of the most famous of all presidential marriages.

The funeral also marked one of the last chapters of a fading political era that stirs nostalgia among American conservatives. Without Mrs. Reagan, her son said, the Republican renaissance of the 1980s might not have happened.

“There would be no Ronald Reagan Presidential Library without a President Ronald Reagan, and there likely wouldn’t have been a President Ronald Reagan without a Nancy Reagan,” said Ron Reagan, delivering the last of several eulogies during the 90-minute service.

Mourners heard how President Reagan was generally affable and trusting, but Mrs. Reagan was made of different cloth.

She could be gracious and quick with a laugh, but also fiercely protective of her husband and sometimes quick to anger at any perceived slight directed at him.

“I think we can admit that she was not always the easiest person to deal with,” her son said, drawing laughter from an audience filled with politicians, heads of state, actors, musicians, a former president and several first ladies.

“She could be difficult. She could be demanding. She could be a bit excessive,” he continued. “But usually only so my father didn’t have to be.

“If you happen to run into the ghost of Don Regan sometime, you can just ask him,” he added, referring to the former White House chief of staff Mrs. Reagan pushed her husband to fire after the two feuded over policy issues.

The gathering also brought together Democrats and Republicans, an unusual tableau at a time of deep division in Washington and on the 2016 campaign trail.

Mourners included former Reagan administration official Ed Meese, former House Speakers Newt Gingrich (Republican) and Nancy Pelosi (Democrat), as well as a number of celebrities.

Among those in the front row were First Lady Michelle Obama, who was seated next to former President George W. Bush. Former first lady and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sat between Bush’s wife, Laura, and former first lady Rosalynn Carter. California Gov. Jerry Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger attended, as did his ex-wife, Maria Shriver.

Heavy rain had been forecast for the ceremony, and guests were ushered into a cavernous waterproof tent behind the library. But a drenching downpour held off until the event concluded.

Mrs. Reagan, who died Sunday at 94, was buried next to her husband on the library grounds.

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.

On Wednesday and Thursday at the library, more than 5,500 mourners filed slowly past the former first lady’s closed casket, blanketed with white roses and peonies, Mrs. Reagan’s favorite flower.

Tears often fell. The crowd, many in graying years, spoke to a time when it was “morning again in America” and the nation followed the Reagan doctrine to weaken Soviet influence during the Cold War.

Reagan left the presidency after eight years, on Jan. 20, 1989.

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.

The Reagans “just fell in love” with the spot, Boston developer and Republican fund-raiser Gerald Blakeley recalled in a 2004 interview. He was part of a partnership that donated the land where the library now sits.