Remembering Nancy Reagan

Former first lady and wife of late President Ronald Reagan died in her Los Angeles home. She was 94.
15:09 | 03/06/16

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Transcript for Remembering Nancy Reagan
This is an ABC news special report. Good afternoon I'm Dan Harris said ABC news headquarters in New York we are interrupting regular programming. To bring you some breaking news former prep First Lady. Nancy Reagan has died she was 94 years old mrs. Reagan had been living in Bel Air California she had been. In failing health in recent years Nancy Reagan once said her life really began. When she met her husband the actor future politician and future president Ronald Reagan in 1951 their remarkably close relationship. Over the next five decades was seen by many as a modern love story a model love story especially. During their first years. As their first family of California and then as president and First Lady from 1981 until 1989. This is Reagan returned to public life after husband her husband. Announced he had alzheimer's disease in 1994. He advocated for millions of others and their families suffering from the effects of that disease but in the past several years. Her few public appearances. Centered mainly on keeping her husband's legacy alive as well as meeting with the leaders of the Republican Party will continue to seek her out. Many of you may remember moments like these the former First Lady paying applies it quiet visit to her husband's grave as she did every year. On the anniversary of the president's death ABC's Cecilia beta looks back now at the extraordinary life and Nancy Reagan. 86 Republican National Convention Nancy Reagan made an emotional. Tribute to her husband stricken with alzheimer's disease it moved the delegates he moved. The nation. So let me close with Ron these words not mine and it showed that further her legacy would be how she carried on this. Never forget your heroic origins. Never failed to seek divine guidance. And never never lose your natural god given optimism. He was that optimism that. Harry Nancy and Ronald Reagan to the end. Ronald Reagan died June 5. 2000 and Slorc. It. Nancy shared her brief the nation. Mrs. Reagan's journey began his aunt Frances Robbins in 1921. After graduating from Smith College she became an actor appearing on Broadway and in several Hollywood films. On March 4 1952. She married Ronald Reagan. The reagans wouldn't make only one film together. It would be her last in 1956. Hillcats of the navy. The new mrs. Reagan soon shifted roles to wife and mother to Patti and Ron junior. And step mother to Michael and Maureen from president Reagan's first marriage to actors Jane Wyman. Maureen died of cancer in 2001. I Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan was sworn in as the fortieth president of the United States in 1981. Nancy right there by his side. She brought some Hollywood glamour back to the White House but her style as First Lady wasn't always appreciated. She was criticized for accepting a million dollars worth of designer dresses and expensive China. Mrs. Reagan was always fiercely protective of her husband. Shot in 1981 she became obsessed with the safety. One former chief of staff revealing that mrs. Reagan consultant Ennis Kerala just to plan the president's schedule. She even coached him what to say there are. There have been doing her. In later years she turned that activists street to the cause many Republicans disagreed with. Stem cell research which could someday help others with else. Timers. The Republican Party was not the center of her life Ronald Reagan was. And she saw an immediate application. Potential application of stem cell the search. To the person she cared about most in all the world. Her public perception has undergone a pro found transformation over the years. Widely viewed in her final decade as a leading political light she was endlessly courted by Republican contenders. Constantly cited as a paragon of genuine conservative virtue. But what Nancy Reagan will be most remembered for the essential cause from which she never wavered. Providing iron strength and absolute devotion to her husband. Oh my dear. Okay. Again Natalie. Going out. A long way me. And they did go a long long way Nancy Reagan. That today at 94. Let's bring in ABC news chief White House correspondent. Jonathan Karl Jon. Good morning to you I just wonder if you could tell us just a little bit more about. The influence she had within the Republican Party especially in these later years and especially at this moment now where the Republican Party isn't set to mall. The timing is just incredible then. You're Nancy Reagan as you heard Cecilia refer to it in her her story. Was often controversial. As First Lady should be fought with some of Reagan's. Topic by a true she was the guardian. Of Ronald Reagan a ball ball things jealously protecting him from anybody who she saw. You would anyway cause him any trouble at all. In the years since he died she became the symbol to protect her. All of the Ronald Reagan legacy and when you think of the towering figure that rage in. Is in has been in this party this is really over the last several decades become. The Party of Lincoln and the party of Ronald Reagan. And it was Nancy Reagan who. To carry that play and kept that flame lit. Every every presidential election cycle. That the the Republican candidates for president would calm out to the Reagan library. There would be you know if they'd better get debate there at. Invited personally invited but by Nancy Reagan. In the years in between the presidential. Election years. Being invited to comment give a speech at the Reagan library at the invitation of Nancy Reagan. Was a sign of affirmation she always stayed neutral in the primaries but she was the guarding of that legacy and the idea. Did she is dying on this day. Just as the Republican Party is facing. Its greatest crisis really since Abraham Lincoln accepted the nomination back in 1860. Is is really quite remarkable. It is what you. For what do you think she will be most remembered me and made people of our generation. Remember. Just saying no. But for what you think she'll be most remembered by history. I think she'll be remembered as the one who carried the tip of flammable brought break in the kept his stick guarded his legacy that kept to legacy alive she was. 88 in active First Lady the obviously that just say no campaign was was the thing that she became known for most that's First Lady. What she remained to be a major figure. Long after Ronald Reagan left the White House because as he left the White House. Obviously struggling what alzheimer's. She was the war on who was the public face of the Reagan legacy. Of Ronald Reagan himself. And also the way she handled. His struggle with alzheimer's in India in the remaining years of his life when he fell. Almost completely out of public do. And she was the lawn who who spoke for Reagan she was the one who was the guardian of that legacy. John have we heard from her at all had we heard from her in recent months says the Republican Party. Became obsessed that serves. Internal battles over over the role of Donald Trump and duty is there anything that she said in the past that would allow us extrapolate to what her. Opinion of this situation might be. We have not heard from her you know this last debate at the of Reagan library earlier on in this crazy primary cycle. It was once again the invitation from Nancy Reagan but being in poor health she was not present. She's been struggling. In terms of her health and I actually it's one of the questions did I know I have had and so many people had. What would Reagan think of what was going on here what is me if you region thinking about what is happening to this party. Ultimately to the legacy of Ronald Reagan and get unfortunately. 94 years old and an ill health we haven't heard from we have just had not heard from we did not hear from Nancy Reagan in the. Analyst John stand by because I wanna bring in Bob Coachella now as a special correspondent for Vanity Fair he has written extensively. About. Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan and their relationship Bob are you with us. Yes ma'am thank you for joining us by the phone. To bring us a little bit if you will into. Emotional core of her relationship. With the Ronald Reagan. Well. An immensely loved Ronald Reagan I'm wears her whole being. You know give as little. A total meeting of the mine dramatic day it was a romantic relationship with or worked on every level. She had a lot you know the battle. It gave him. And the confidence and support and optimism were really. After his mother she was deftly. The person who you disclose who's to by law are. And they looked very much he. Starting when my married in ninety to keep Jill Woolfolk out of work actors. Fourteen years later he got purple launches state of the union sheet paved the way in so many ways you sort out. But why how who Republican. In California who won't go kitchen capital base is brought up a possible. And she will. News Google because behind the scenes look at personnel director of every break and operation campaign. Including human White House she made sure you have good people around him and when they want to achieve this one two. Sort of organize their X group because Ronald Reagan liked firing but he was to Mexico. She just good those talks. One cannot exaggerate how important a role was as first lady of the amended his entire political career. Yeah it's hard to forget that really. Indelible moment where he facing the press and she feeds in the line and and he repeats it I just want to. Read here at tweet from Ronald Reagan's son Michael Reagan. He says I'm quoting here I'm saddened by the passing of my stepmother Nancy Reagan she is once again with the man she loved god bless. And that affect you Bob Coachella. Can you give us a sense of the impact that Ronald Reagan's health troubles wouldn't his struggles with alzheimer's disease had on his wife Nancy Reagan. Well she was devastated. You know blow by the news. But she described to me when he was told by the doctor you employ at all climbers Kelly right true desk and Brokeback beautiful letter. To the American people. See you never leapt two eight. She would come to New York when he was still not so bad for a day or two which he called him every night that. 10 o'clock New York Times she in the middle victim reported she would call him. One you really took all it oh advantage night would be. And then deteriorated. Much more should basically network left the house and she went to lunch or put Bel Air Hotel around the corner. And take you know couldn't wait to get home gym and I think had he did Dave that their daughter. Take confirmed that it was banned yet told me was that just before you die you didn't in the coma and he opened two let me look at answered. And it was like he was saying goodbye it's what you love story that almost unbelievable. I've done about it but it's really true the whole thing's true. It's an incredible love story it played out in public. For so many years we have just a moment left I wonder if you might comment a little bit unruh. What John Carl was talking about a moment ago about what Nancy Reagan might think. About what's happening right now in the Republican Party in the internal warfare that's erupted over Donald Trump. I think she'd be appalled I mean we've spoken just last week but it was a police talked him and you can get around to talking what is she was very politically aware. She always favored a more pragmatic candy and Dick applied. Kind of world leaders little politicians alike. A George shall or James Baker abused or her allies from the White House. Ronald Reagan have food you'll ever to medal troops group of Republicans you not speak ill of each other. I think what's going on trying to sort through. I can't sleep at pleasing her. And pitchers. You know she always took vital road in so soldiers her husband. And but I had my I regret but I was able to. Actually. Get her opinion on and on what's going on both. Who I assume that you have she's rural. Yeah I think you are not alone in that assumption buckle until I want to thank you. For your insight and expertise on this day when we are. Marking the passing of the former First Lady Nancy Reagan she died at age 94 she was born on July 6 1921. Mrs. Reagan had been living in bail out Bel Air California as we mentioned earlier and she had been in failing health. In recent years our thanks again to buckle cello and Jon Karl we will be tracking this story all day right here on ABC news. This has been a special report. From ABC.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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