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Nancy Reagan Remembered With Laughter and Tears

  • VOA Staff

The casket carrying Nancy Reagan arrives for her funeral at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, March 11, 2016.

The casket carrying Nancy Reagan arrives for her funeral at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, March 11, 2016.

Nancy Reagan was 94 when she died of heart failure Sunday in Bel Air, California.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan was remembered with laughter and tears Friday by 1,000 invited mourners during her funeral at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Nancy Reagan was 94 when she died of heart failure Sunday in Bel Air, California.

Current first lady Michelle Obama represented the White House at Friday's service. President Barack Obama said in his weekly address Saturday that "as president, I know just how important it is to have a strong life partner and President Reagan was as lucky as I am."

A long list of Reagan family friends, ranging from conservative Republicans to left-wing Democrats, attended the funeral. They included members of White House families going back nearly 60 years, including Caroline Kennedy, Steven Ford, former President George W. Bush, and ex-first ladies Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Rosalynn Carter.

Actors Tom Selleck and Bo Derek and singers Johnny Mantis and Wayne Newton were among the Hollywood elite.

Tough, dedicated to husband

Nancy Reagan was remembered as a tough and often stubborn woman, but someone who was 100 percent devoted to her late husband, President Ronald Reagan.

First lady Michelle Obama, from left, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush leave the funeral service for former first lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, March 11, 2016.

First lady Michelle Obama, from left, former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush leave the funeral service for former first lady Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, March 11, 2016.

Daughter Patti Davis said the one sure way to get on Nancy Reagan's bad side was to show even the smallest bit of disrespect to her husband.

She recalls seeing them sitting together on a California beach at sunset — not talking or moving, just sitting.

Davis recalled how, as a young girl, she fell and cracked her skull, and Nancy Reagan tenderly held her head with one hand while driving with the other to a hospital emergency room.

She also had the mourners laughing with a story about his father getting a rubdown from a massage therapist. She said Nancy Reagan sneaked into the room, kissed her prone husband on the back of the neck, and snuck out, leaving the perplexed Reagan to believe it was the burly massage therapist who kissed him.

Advocacy for stem cell research

When Ronald Reagan died from complications of Alzheimer's disease in 2004, Nancy Reagan became an inexhaustible advocate for stem cell research, which doctors believe could lead to a cure for Alzheimer's.

Obama said he was "proud" that Nancy Reagan was one of the first people he called when he signed an order to resume federal stem cell research.

"Nobody understood better than Nancy Reagan the importance of pursuing treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives," the president said.

Obama ordered all U.S. flags on government buildings flown at half-staff until Friday night, when Reagan's casket was put in the ground next to her beloved husband at the presidential library named for him.

Besides Patti Davis and son Ron Reagan, Nancy Reagan is survived by a stepson, Michael, who Ronald Reagan adopted during his first marriage to actress Jane Wyman.

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