Nancy Davis Reagan, wife of the late President Ronald Reagan, died on March 6, 2016 at her home in Los Angeles at the age of 94.  She was buried next to her late husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.  The couple wed on March 4, 1952, in Los Angeles and had two children together.  They both often spoke of their love for each other through their lives.  Their devotion to each other and extraordinary 52 year marriage was mentioned in eulogies delivered by their children.  Her daughter spoke of how Nancy was comforted in her last days by the fact that she would be reunited with her husband.

The former first lady will be best remembered for her loyalty to her husband and her fierce protectiveness of him following a 1981 assassination attempt, and later, as she cared for him after his diagnosis with Alzheimer’s disease.  After the assassination attempt, Nancy made sure she knew her husband’s schedule meticulously.  She stood by him as Alzheimer’s disease overtook him in the later years of his life.

When they left the White House in 1989, the Reagans moved to Bel Air, California, where they looked forward to a restful retirement.  During an annual checkup in 1994, Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  Nancy’s role as his caretaker increased, and she rarely left his side as his health worsened.  Throughout her husband’s illness, Reagan became an increasing proponent of stem cell research, winning an honor from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in 2004.

When President Reagan revealed in a letter to the American people that he was afflicted with Alzheimer’s, he observed that “I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience.” Thus began what Nancy would come to call the “long goodbye,” a decade spent tending to the husband she loved, who in time could not recognize her any more.

But her loving marriage was not her only focus, during her White House years, she sponsored a major drug prevention crusade aimed at children and young adults. She toured the U.S. and other nations as part of her “Just Say No” campaign, traveling almost 250,000 miles.  In 1985, she hosted first ladies from 17 nations at the White House for a conference on youth drug abuse.

The anti-drug movement was influential in passage of the 1986 National Crusade for a Drug-Free America anti-drug abuse law. Through her platform, Reagan addressed the U.N. General Assembly in 1988 when she spoke in on international drug trafficking laws.

Reagan also persuaded her husband to befriend Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, saying that it made no sense for the leaders to not be engaged in open dialogue. This friendship later led to the 1987 INF Treaty, which about brought mutual destruction of intermediate-range nuclear missiles and was considered a high achievement of the Reagan administration.

Nancy Reagan achieved great things during and after her years as the first lady but the Reagans love and dedication to each other is surely one of their greatest legacies.

 

 

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