Nancy Reagan dies at the age of 94

NancyNancy Reagan, a former film actress whose crowning role was that of vigilant guardian of President Ronald Reagan’s interests and legacy, died March 6 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 94.

The cause was congestive heart failure, her office said.

As first lady from 1981 to 1989, Mrs. Reagan had a knack for inviting controversy — from her spending habits to her request that the White House abide by an astrologer when planning the president’s schedule.

But the controversies during her years as first lady often obscured her profound influence on one of the most popular presidents in modern history. They were a universe of two, and their legendary devotion helped define Reagan’s presidency.

President Obama said Sunday that Mrs. Reagan had “redefined” the role of first lady, and he praised her for becoming an advocate for Alzheimer’s disease treatments and research after her husband was diagnosed in 1994. “We remain grateful for Nancy Reagan’s life [and] thankful for her guidance,” the president and first lady Michelle Obama said in a statement.

Mrs. Reagan was often seen as the “bad cop” to her husband’s congenial “good cop,” putting her at odds with his senior staff, who wanted more exposure for the man known as the “Great Communicator.” After John W. Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate her husband in 1981, Mrs. Reagan kept his senior aides and a sympathetic public at bay while he convalesced. She argued vociferously against his running for reelection in 1984, in part because of fears about his safety.

“She defined her role as being a shield for the emotional and physical well-being of the president,” Carl Sferrazza Anthony, National First Ladies’ Library historian, said. “I believe she would see her legacy as having helped forge her husband’s legacy.”

Frederick J. Ryan Jr., who is The Washington Post’s publisher and chief executive and who is chairman of the board of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, said: “She set the standard that first ladies will aspire to for many years to come. Her contributions to the success of Ronald Reagan’s presidency may never be fully appreciated.” (Courtesy Washington Post)

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