Remembering Former First Lady Nancy Reagan

PHOTO: First Lady Nancy Reagan watches as President Ronald Reagan is sworn in during ceremonies in the Rotunda beneath the Capitol Dome in Washington, Jan. 21, 1985.PlayRon Edmonds/AP Photo
WATCH Nancy Reagan, an Influential Force During the Reagan Administration

Politicians mourned the death of former first lady Nancy Reagan, who died in her home in Los Angeles on Sunday.

The wife of former President Ronald Reagan was remembered for her loyalty to her husband. She became fiercely protective of him after a 1981 assassination attempt, and later stood by him as Alzheimer's disease overtook him in his last years.

Reagan, who died of heart failure, will be buried next to her late husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

"Nancy Reagan once wrote that nothing could prepare you for living in the White House," President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama said in a statement. "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," the Obamas said. "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."

"Nancy Reagan defined grace, courage, and loyalty," Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden said in a statement. "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," the Bidens said. "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."

"Nancy Reagan was totally devoted to President Reagan, and we take comfort that they will be reunited once more," former first lady Barbara Bush said in a statement. "George and I send our prayers and condolences to her family."

"Laura and I are saddened by the loss of former First Lady Nancy Reagan," President George W. Bush said in a statement. "Mrs. Reagan was fiercely loyal to her beloved husband, and that devotion was matched only by her devotion to our country."

"Her influence on the White House was complete and lasting," Bush said. "During her time as First Lady and since, she raised awareness about drug abuse and breast cancer. When we moved into the White House, we benefitted from her work to make those historic rooms beautiful. Laura and I are grateful for the life of Nancy Reagan, and we send our condolences to the entire Reagan family."

"Hillary and I were deeply saddened to learn of Nancy Reagan’s passing," President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Clinton said in a statement. "Nancy was an extraordinary woman: a gracious First Lady, proud mother, and devoted wife to President Reagan—her Ronnie. Her strength of character was legendary, particularly when tested by the attempted assassination of the President, and throughout his battle with Alzheimer's. She leaves a remarkable legacy of good that includes her tireless advocacy for Alzheimer’s research and the Foster Grandparent Program. We join all Americans in extending our prayers and condolences to her beloved children and her entire family during this difficult time."

President Jimmy Carter said: "Rosalynn and I are saddened by the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan. She will always be admired for her strength of conviction and her lifelong devotion to her husband. Her 'just say no' campaign prevented many young people from falling prey to the allure of drug use; and her advocacy for stem cell research raised public awareness and influenced decision makers about vital research for Alzheimer's disease. We extend our condolences to her family at this difficult time."

California Gov. Jerry Brown said: "Nancy Reagan lived a remarkable life and will be remembered for her strength and grace. On behalf of all Californians, Anne and I extend our deepest condolences to the Reagan family."

Brown said Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff in her honor.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said: "Nancy Reagan embodied what it means to represent America as First Lady and her dignified and warm demeanor inspired America. Mrs. Reagan will go down in history as a woman who left her own mark on the White House and our country."

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said: "Although Cindy and I are terribly saddened by the news of former First Lady Nancy Reagan's passing, we take comfort in the faith that she has been reunited at long last with her beloved 'Ronnie,' the 40th President of the United States. Theirs was a genuine partnership of kindred spirits, who were deeply and unceasingly in love, a partnership that benefited a nation as well as a couple. Nancy Reagan was an example to us all of graciousness, loyalty and dignity in good times and bad. She was an exemplary First Lady, and a generous friend. I will always be grateful for her and her husband’s many kindnesses to my family. And I will always remember her as a dear friend and patriot and as one-half of a love story that Hollywood couldn’t have written any better."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, said in a statement: “You didn't have to be a Reagan Republican to admire and respect Nancy Reagan. She was a tower of strength alongside her husband, had strong beliefs, and was not afraid to chart her own course politically. She persuaded her husband to support the [gun control] Brady Law, and their advocacy was instrumental in helping us pass it.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said: "Nancy Reagan was the rock behind one of the greatest leaders of our time. She was her husband's greatest source of strength through the toughest decisions he made as president. She embodied grace and poise for generations of Americans.  In true Nancy Reagan fashion, she became a crusader in the battle against the disease that ultimately took President Reagan's life, Alzheimer's. It was a great honor for me and Mary Pat to be welcomed by her to the Reagan Library in 2011 and it will be a memory we will always treasure. The nation will truly miss her. Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Reagan family."

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said: "Elaine and I join the nation in mourning the loss of Nancy Reagan. In many ways the Reagan love story was classic Hollywood, but it was unmistakably human too. Hands intertwined, Nancy and Ron rose to the pinnacle of political power, weathered cancer and personal heartbreak, and braved the depths of Alzheimer's cold embrace -- always together. I know every American felt Nancy's immense pain when she, kissing Ronnie's casket, mouthed a tearful farewell to the best friend she once said she couldn't imagine life without. Today, Nancy and Ron are together once more, and we offer our most sincere condolences to the friends and family left behind."

James Baker, Reagan's White House chief of staff and secretary of the treasury, said: "Nancy Reagan was one half of the team that restored our nation's pride and confidence in itself, and reinvigorated America's leadership role in the world. She was her husband's closest adviser, his constant protector, and most importantly the love of his life. She was indispensable to his success. Theirs was an extraordinarily beautiful love story. America and the world are better places today because of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. Susan and I have the entire Reagan family in our hearts and prayers."