Nancy Reagan lived a remarkable life, marked by much triumph and a measure of tragedy. All former presidents who commented on her passing at the age of 94 mentioned almost above all her devotion to her husband, Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States. The former Nancy Davis said often that her life, despite her own accomplishments as a movie actress, didn’t really begin until she met the actor with whom she co-starred in a film and in life. They left the film industry and made their way, via the California governor’s office, to the White House.
It’s safe to say Ronald Reagan wouldn’t have made that journey without Nancy Reagan, whom he called “Mommy.” He relied on her advice virtually every day of his life, seeking her counsel, hearing her out when she voiced her opinion on his staff.
Some criticized her high-priced sense of fashion, and she countered that the public, particularly women, expected the first lady to set an example. Others thought she had too much influence and questioned her use of astrologers. She was sensitive to criticism, to be sure – but so are most people in public life, no matter what they say. The former first lady led her long life with the same challenges that most families face and retained her gift in front of the cameras and most certainly her dignity.
Nancy Reagan led a much-ballyhooed but not very successful “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign, but mostly she was the president’s protector, particularly when he disclosed his Alzheimer’s disease in 1994. She was as dedicated to him on the last day of his life as she was on the first day of their marriage. The feeling was always mutual.