Mourners Honor First Lady, Sharing Memories of Reagan 'Love Story' - NBC Southern California

Mourners Honor First Lady, Sharing Memories of Reagan 'Love Story'

Many visitors recalled fond memories of living through the Reagan era and the couple's mark on American history



    Mourners Honor First Lady, Sharing Memories of Reagan 'Love Story'
    The casket of Nancy Reagan rest at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 in Simi Valley, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool)

    A second day of mourning at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum began Thursday with long lines as visitors honored former first lady Nancy Reagan one day before her funeral at the hillside property northwest of Los Angeles.

    Library visitors walked quietly in a circle around Reagan's casket, brought to the lobby Wednesday and covered in white roses and peonies -- her favorite flower. Officials said they were surprised by Wednesday's public viewing turnout and started with four buses each carrying 50 passengers from the guest lot to the presidential library, but within a matter of hours had grown to nearly a thousand. Officials added a dozen additional buses to shuttle passengers.

    A similar crowd is expected Thursday.

    Many visitors came and recalled fond memories of living through the Reagan era and the couple's mark on American history.

    Mourners Share Memories of Nancy Reagan

    [LA] Day 2 of Mourning Brings More Memories of Nancy Reagan
    A second day of mourning began Thursday at the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in Simi Valley. Annette Arreola reports for the NBC4 News at Noon on Thursday March 10, 2016.
    (Published Thursday, March 10, 2016)

    "The end of the greatest generation to me. It's like my dad, my parents, my aunts, my uncles," said  Snooky O'Leary of Simi Valley.

    Roy Dillard drove more than 100 miles with two of his daughters and his 3-year-old great-granddaughter to pay their respects. Dillard's daughter Bobbie Eldridge said she admired how the first lady "stood by her man, the great and beautiful love that they had and how she became his caretaker" in old age. She and her 80-year-old father drove from Bakersfield to the library in Simi Valley.

    Retired teacher Mary Ellen Gruendyke drove nearly as far from her Riverside home, appearing with a colorful Ronald Reagan souvenir scarf around her neck.

    "Ronald Reagan was one of the best presidents we've ever had," Gruendyke said, "and I admired them both as a couple for their love story and the support they showed to each other."

    Many cited that love story as most in their thoughts as they stood at the casket, including Daniel Blatt of West Hollywood, who left in tears after paying his respects.

    "He wouldn't have been anything without her by his side," Blatt said.

    The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

    Reagan, who died in her sleep in her Bel Air home of congestive heart failure at the age of 94 on Sunday, will be interred in front of invited guests in a ceremony scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Friday. The Reagan library will remain closed to the general public until 10 a.m. this Sunday.

    The one-time actress and former first lady helped plan many of the details of her memorial and funeral service, from the pallbearers to the guest list to the exact location of her interment at her husband's side.

    A trio of former first ladies, including Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, are expected to attend the service, along with current first lady Michelle Obama, although President Barack Obama is not expected to be there.

    Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, are expected, along with former first lady Rosalynn Carter, according to Reagan Library officials. Tricia Nixon Cox, a daughter of President Richard Nixon, is also expected.

    Other expected guests, according to the Reagan Foundation, are Capt. Christopher Bolt, the commander of the USS Ronald Reagan; Katie Couric; Sam Donaldson; Chris Matthews; Newt and Callista Gingrich; Wayne Newton; Anjelica Huston; Melissa Rivers; Tina Sinatra; and Mr. T, the burly actor who took an active role in Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" anti-drug campaign in the 1980s.

    Beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday, doors to the museum were opened for people to view the casket, which was placed on a pedestal in the lobby, draped with yellow flowers and encircled by black velvet ropes.

    During Wednesday's visitation, 65-year-old Los Angeles Times photographer Ricardo DeAratanha was arrested on suspicion of resisting and obstructing a law enforcement officer, a misdemeanor, while transmitting photographs of the funeral motorcade, the newspaper reported today.

    Simi Valley police said he refused to identify himself and balked at providing identification, but the photographer's attorney denied it, saying DeAratanha provided press credentials, including identification cards issued by The Times and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

    The attorney said officers swarmed DeAratanha, threw him to the ground and cuffed him. He was later taken to a hospital, where he was treated for a sprained elbow, according to The Times.

    Ronald Reagan Foundation officials, noting that tight security has been ordered, advised people not to bring large bags, cameras or strollers to the viewings. Gifts and flowers again will only be accepted today at the bottom of Presidential Drive and at the shuttle pickup location.

    According to the Reagan Foundation, Nancy Reagan requested that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Ronald Reagan Memorial Fund at

    Until Wednesday morning, the casket was at the Gates, Kingsley & Gates Moeller Murphy funeral home in Santa Monica, where relatives gathered around 9 a.m. for a private service conducted by the Rev. Stuart A. Kenworthy, the vicar of Washington National Cathedral and the man who will lead Friday's funeral service. He was assisted by the Rev. Donn Moomaw, the Reagan's family minister.

    Shortly before 10 a.m. Wednesday, Nancy Reagan's casket was placed in a large black hearse to begin the trek to the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. Her casket was attended by eight pallbearers -- all U.S. Secret Service agents who worked for her or her husband over the years.  

    As the motorcade made its way north on the San Diego (405) Freeway, onlookers could be seen on overpasses to watch the procession below. The Los Angeles Fire Department displayed large American flags at a pair of locations along the route. When the motorcade transitioned to the westbound Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway, about a dozen LAFD firefighters stood at attention along the shoulder of the roadway and saluted as the hearse passed.

    Nancy Reagan was the woman behind the "Just Say No" campaign and a first lady known for adding glamour to the White House.

    The Reagans were married in March 1952 and lived in Pacific Palisades until they moved to Sacramento in 1966. They had two children together, Patti and Ron Jr., and she also helped raise Ronald Reagan's two children with his first wife, Jane Wyman.

    Ronald and Nancy Reagan were both actors, but "Hellcats Of the Navy" in 1957 was the only movie in which they appeared together, although she later continued to act in TV and minor movie roles.

    Her biggest roles, however, were not on the screen, but as Ronald Reagan's adviser, counselor and fierce protector when he was in public life, and later, as his chief caregiver after he became stricken by Alzheimer's disease. Reagan died in June 2004.

    City News Service and Annette Arreola contributed to this report.

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