Nancy Reagan died on March 6. The First Lady passed away in her home in Bel-Air (Los Angeles) Calif.
Nancy Reagan was born on July 6, 1921, in New York City. She was an actress when she meant Ronald Reagan. They were marred in 1952. It became what their friend Charlton Heston said was, “the greatest love affair in the history of the American presidency.”
Nancy quit acting in 1957. Her last film, “Hellcats in the Navy” also starred Ronald Reagan. She became First Lady of California when Ronald Reagan became Governor. She was First Lady of the United States from1981-1989. It was during the construction of the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley that I became acquainted with Nancy Reagan. I became very fond of her.
Former Secretary of State George Shultz tells this story. When the First Lady meant Soviet Union leader Andrei Gromyko, he asked her if her husband really wanted peace.
“Of course he does,” answered Nancy. “Will you whisper in his ear at night,’peace’?” said Gromyko. “No.” she said. “I’ll whisper in yours.” At which she grabbed Gromyko by the collar and pulled him to her and whispered in his ear “peace.”
She became the unofficial “protector” of her husband after theat tempted assassination by John Hinckley as Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel, on March 30,1981. Quipped President Reagan when seeing his wife after the shooting, “Honey, I forgot to duck.”After that, Nancy said, “I felt panicky every time he left the White House.” She was never the same after the assassination attempt.
She was criticized for consulting an astrologer, Joan Quigly, to assist in planning President Reagan’s schedule that would be best for his safety. Later Nancy said, “Astrology was just one of the ways I coped with the fear I felt.” Asked later if Astrology was the reason no further attempts were made on her husband’s life she said, “ I don’t really believe it was, but I don’t really believe it wasn’t.” What a great answer.
She was quietly a powerful First Lady who took action to terminate aides when necessary because President Reagan hated to fire people. In a highly publicized event, she convinced the president to have Chief of Staff Donald Regan resign over the Iran-Contra affair. Regan left quickly after President Reagan learned he had hung up the phone on Nancy. After Regan left she convinced the president to publicly apologize for the arms deal.
Her most publicized work was the “just say no” to drugs campaign.She was also very much involved in the “Foster Grandparents Program.” Shelater became caretaker of the Reagan Presidential Library. She wrote three books; “My Turn,” “I love you Ronnie” and “To love a child,” in which she wrote about the Foster Grandparents Program.
She didn’t hesitate to disagree with most Republicans when she thought they were wrong. She was a strong advocate of Embryonic stem cell research, that was being used to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s was robbing her of her beloved “ Ronnie”. This put her in cross-hairs with the anti-abortionist in her party. She was also for reasonable gun laws, actively supporting the Brady Bill.
One day the First Lady was going to visit an elementary school in Simi Valley to talk about “just say no.” As a city council member I thought it was important for me to be there. There were three of us, and the Mayor who were there to greet her. One council member was, what she always called “fashionably late.” Nancy Reagan had already arrived and was shaking our hands, when this council member barged into the line and put her hand out to Nancy, proclaiming, “I’m a lifelong Republican.”
Nancy looked at me, whom she knew was a Democrat, and actually winked, then said, “Oh, well my husband used to be a Democrat.” Nancy Reagan knew there were things more important than to which party one belonged. She had many Democratic friends, among them was Robert Strauss, a powerful Democratic power broker.
President Reagan used to talk about the “shining light on the hill.” Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s great marriage was a shining light and a great example. Nancy left all of “Ronnie’s” letters to her to the Reagan
Library. Ronald Reagan passed away June 5, 2004, his cherished wife has now joined him. They now rest together high on a hill in Simi Valley, California.
There is so much more I could write. Let me just say she was a “touch of class,” and then some.
Glen McAdoo, a Fallon resident, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.