Nancy Reagan considered her most important role promoting the political, physical and mental well-being of Ronald Reagan. Launching one of history’s most extraordinary partnerships with their 1952 marriage, she became his closest advisor, wielding her influence to defend his interests and advance his goals.
The former first lady, whose devotion to her husband made her a formidable behind-the-scenes player in his administrations and one of the most influential presidential wives in modern times, died Sunday of congestive heart failure, her office said. She was 94.
Former Gov. Pete Wilson joined a chorus of voices eulogizing Nancy Reagan.
In a statement issued late Sunday, Wilson, a member of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, praised President Reagan's economic and foreign policy. And he said that the 40th president's success came from the stability and support of his marriage.
"All he did and his confident belief in America was sustained and deepened by the love and strength of Nancy Reagan's belief in him every day of their lives together," Wilson said.
"They were deeply in love and visibly totally devoted to each other. The petite and fragile woman on the President’s arm gave strength to his arm and great strength to his purpose."
Wilson added, "For the model of goodness and wisdom his exceptional leadership gave us, we are immeasurably indebted to him -- and to his loving, devoted Nancy, his unflagging supporter in their life together and tireless guardian of his legacy to the end of hers."
A police officer salutes as a hearse and a police motorcade depart from Nancy Reagan's Malibu home Sunday afternoon.
Nancy Reagan defined grace, courage and loyalty. An accomplished actress, first lady of California and first lady of the United States, she understood public service is a noble endeavor. She was a strong voice to keep children safe from drugs, and she reached out to give comfort to fellow cancer survivors, communities touched by gun violence, and families as they cared for a loved one on the lonely walk of Alzheimer's. That's who she gave voice to in her service to our country. And together, she and our 40th president gave meaning to a poet's words:
"Come live with me and be my love/And we will all the pleasures prove."
Nancy and Ronald Reagan proved those pleasures for more than half a century. They are now together to prove them once again. Jill and I offer our deepest condolences to Patti, Ron, Michael, and the entire Reagan family.
Actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who sometimes escorted Nancy Reagan to events at her husband’s presidential library, remembered her at a campaign event in Columbus, Ohio, where he endorsed the state’s governor, John Kasich, for president.
“She was one of the greatest first ladies, an extraordinary human being and such a wonderful partner to her husband, President Reagan, who was without any doubt one of the greatest presidents in the history of the United States,” Schwarzenegger said. “And I know she will join him now in Heaven and this love affair between the two of them will start all over again.”
He then asked the crowd of several hundred to join him in a moment of silence for Mrs. Reagan.
Nancy Reagan was influential because she was there for her husband all the time. She was the shield. She wanted to help him, and she sacrificed her own image to do that.
Times editor Shelby Grad takes you on a retrospective of Nancy Reagan's impact on the 1980's - everything from fashion to the controversial "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign. Here are some highlights from the archives:
"Taking drugs and drinking aren't things you should do just because some people say you should," the first lady said in a public service announcement taped in Los Angeles. "If you just say no to drugs, alcohol and pills, you'll be saying yes to a whole lot more."
On her fashion:
"For the first presidential inauguration, Reagan — always a size 2 — wore a red Adolfo dress and coat bright enough to enrage a bull. During Cold War visits to the Soviet Union, she opted for muted, wool suits that reflected the stoicism of that country.
"Certain pieces became staples. The Kelly green Galanos wool coat she first wore to the Iran hostage release ceremony in 1981 became the sartorial equivalent of eggnog, when she began modeling it every year at Christmastime."
This was a deep love affair and a political partnership that was in some ways unprecedented.
In Nancy Reagan's memoir, "My Turn," the former first lady said she called astrologer Joan Quigley in the aftermath of an assassination attempt on the president. "I'm scared every time he leaves the house," she told Quigley, seeking advice on the timing of President Reagan's comings and goings.
Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House. She was right, of course. But we had a head start, because we were fortunate to benefit from her proud example, and her warm and generous advice.
Our former First Lady redefined the role in her time here. Later, in her long goodbye with President Reagan, she became a voice on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer’s, and took on a new role, as advocate, on behalf of treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives.
We offer our sincere condolences to their children, Patti, Ron, and Michael, and to their grandchildren. And we remain grateful for Nancy Reagan's life, thankful for her guidance, and prayerful that she and her beloved husband are together again.
She tried to, as any wife would, to protect him, saying, 'Look, come back next week. Don't stay too long. Don't wear him out.' She didn't have any agenda except making sure Ronald wasn't taken advantage of, and that's what she did.
We miss Nancy dearly. And of course, now one of the greatest love stories of our time can now start over again.
In an episode that aired in 1983, Arnold (played by Gary Coleman) is writing a newspaper story about drugs at his school.
After publishing his story, he receives some unexpected support from then-First Lady Nancy Reagan.
She brought a glamour and a style to the White House — this Hollywood dimension ... but it wasn't just Nancy Reagan having parties and holding flowers as heads of state visited. She was a highly substantive political person.
Andy Hall, 48, of Simi Valley, was impressed by Nancy Reagan's devotion to her husband.
"It's not about his politics or her politics, it's about the love they had for each other," he said.