'Thank you for changing the world', President Reagan

Monday, June 7, 2004

Associated Press
King 5 News

A photo of former President Ronald Reagan is placed alongside flags, flowers and messages at the funeral home where Reagan's body lies in Santa Monica, Calif., Sunday, June 6, 2004.

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. - Nancy Reagan touched her cheek to the flag-covered casket, then made way for Americans by the thousands to pay respects Monday to Ronald Reagan before a cross-country journey to a state funeral in Washington.

A steady, near-silent stream of people - some saluting, some praying - circled through the rotunda of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where the body of the nation's 40th president will lie in repose through Tuesday before traveling to Washington. After Friday's state funeral, the body will return to California for a hilltop burial service at sunset.

A Marine Corps band played "Hail to the Chief" as eight armed forces members carried the casket into the presidential library, past a 10-foot-tall sculpture titled "After the Ride" depicting Reagan as a smiling cowboy with a Stetson in his hand.

The journey began at a Santa Monica funeral home, where the mahogany casket was placed aboard a hearse for a 40-mile drive to the library in Simi Valley.

Clusters of people watched from overpasses and roadsides as the motorcade headed north, then west on the Ronald Reagan Freeway, its path cleared by motorcycle officers. One banner hung along the route declared, "God bless you Ronald & Nancy." Another proclaimed, "God bless the Gipper."

Flags at half-staff fluttered under an overcast sky as the casket was carried into the library rotunda before a brief family service.

"As we were in procession, I couldn't help but think of the love and the outpouring that has begun in the nation for a great president, a great world leader and a faithful servant of almighty God," said the Rev. Michael Wenning, retired senior pastor at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, where Reagan had worshipped.

When the service ended, Mrs. Reagan, dressed in a black suit and pearls, walked to the casket, placing her left cheek against the flag's field of stars. Her daughter, Patti Davis, hugged her tightly and other family members joined them, placing hands on the casket.

Soon after the family departed, the first of many chartered buses arrived, bringing members of the public who had been waiting - in some cases for hours - for a chance to pay respects to Reagan, who died on Saturday after a 10-year struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

The library was prepared to have 2,000 people an hour move past the casket for 30 hours. Twenty-seven buses shuttled mourners about five miles from a college, which was shut down to provide parking.

Among the early arrivals were Arnold Schwarzenegger, like Reagan an actor-turned-governor, and California's first lady, Maria Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan. Both crossed themselves.

Mourners, including many children, stood quietly in line as they waited to enter the library, then moved rapidly past the casket flanked by an honor guard representing all branches of the military. Some people carried carnations or tiny U.S. flags; dress ranged from dark suits and ties to Hawaiian shirts and sunglasses.

Mauchese Franklin, 31, from Laverne, said he had wanted to visit Reagan's library for years and was sad that his trip resulted from the former president's death.

Standing with his 8-year-old son, Franklin recalled that as a boy he stayed up late to listen to election returns from Reagan's presidential campaign.

"I couldn't wait to turn 18 to be able to vote," he said. "I can actually say he's the reason I am a registered Republican, even though everyone else in my family is a Democrat."

Mrs. Reagan, accompanied by Patti and son Ron, had paused earlier on her way into the funeral home as she passed a display of impromptu remembrances. American flags, flowers and jars of jelly beans - Reagan's favorite treat - were left along with notes, stuffed animals and candles in the spontaneous shrine.

Mrs. Reagan, 82, read some of the messages.

"Thank you for changing the world," said one handwritten note.

Roxanne Kubicek, 42, gave officers guarding the mortuary a card for Mrs. Reagan.

"I just wished her lots and lots of love," she said. "I admired the beautiful love that they have. I told her that their love will last for all eternity."

Peggy Sheffey, 85, said she drove to the funeral home from the nearby Mar Vista area to "just feel closer" to the man she had never seen in person.

"He's a wonderful man," she said, choking back tears. "He was so real, absolutely real. Down to earth. He didn't just think of himself. He thought of everybody else."

Besides Mrs. Reagan, Ron and Patti, others attending the service at the library included Reagan's son, Michael, and his family; Dennis Revell, husband of Reagan's late daughter Maureen; and Merv Griffin, the veteran entertainer and family friend.

On Wednesday, the former president's body is to be flown to Washington, D.C. Following a ceremony Wednesday night in the Capitol Rotunda, the body will lie in state there.

Friday will be a national day of mourning, with all federal offices and major financial markets closed. The state funeral will be held at Washington National Cathedral; President Bush will deliver a eulogy and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev will be among the mourners.

The body will then be returned to Reagan's library in Simi Valley for a private burial service Friday evening. Reagan will be buried in a crypt beneath a memorial site at the library some 45 miles north of Los Angeles.

Praise for Reagan, and condolences to his family, streamed in from across the world. In a jarring contrast, a Cuban government radio station assailed Reagan's policies and said he "never should have been born."

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Reagan "will be remembered for his leadership and resolve during a period of momentous change in world affairs, as well as for the warmth, grace and humor with which he conducted affairs of state."

A Timeline of Reagan's Life

Reagan Memorial

Ronald Reagan: Did you know?


• Reaganomics: Newspapers and magazines applied the name to the president’s early economic policies. His plan combined tax cuts with reductions in welfare and unemployment programs, and included a large increase in defense spending.

• Strategic Defense Initiative: Often referred to as "Star Wars," the proposed defense system would strike down nuclear missiles aimed at the United States before they could hit the ground.

• Supply-side economics: The theory that government can stimulate the economy by cutting taxes and encouraging investment by private citizens and businesses, which will grow the economy, bring in greater tax revenue and reduce government deficits.

• Teflon president: Democratic Rep. Patricia Schroeder of Colorado coined the phrase in 1983. The idea came to her while she was cooking breakfast for her kids. As she slid the eggs out of the frying pan, she reflected on the way political accountability slid off Ronald Reagan. He could get into politically "dirty" areas but emerge with his reputation and popularity unscathed. She used the idea later that day: "Mr. Speaker, after carefully watching Ronald Reagan, he is attempting a great breakthrough in political technology - he has been perfecting the Teflon-coated presidency."


• His nicknames were Dutch, the Great Communicator and the Gipper.

• According to Mr. Reagan’s autobiographies, he received the nickname "Dutch" soon after his birth. His father said that he looked like "a fat little Dutchman." Mr. Reagan has also said that he got the nickname because of the "Dutch boy haircut" his mother gave him when he was a toddler.

• He was called the Great Communicator by the press because reporters marveled at his ability to transmit his "message" to the public.

• Mr. Reagan was the oldest president in history. He was 69 when he took office and 77 when he left.

• He was the first president who had been divorced.

• He was the only president to be wounded and survive an assassination attempt. He kept the .22-caliber bullet under a glass dome inscribed: "This IS It!" in his office.

• To avoid long encounters with the press, he often took reporters’ questions with his helicopter roaring in the background.

• He was the only president to head a labor union, the Screen Actors Guild.

• He was the only president born in Illinois.

• He did not require makeup in the movies because of his ruddy complexion.

• In 1984, Mr. Reagan carried every state but Minnesota, the home of his opponent Walter Mondale. Prior to Mr. Reagan, only one president had carried 49 states: Richard Nixon who lost only Massachusetts in 1972.

• He saved 77 people as a lifeguard.

• He married his first wife, Jane Wyman, at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Calif. The ceremony was at Wee Kirk o’ the Heather, a replica of a small 14th-century Scottish church. Couples still use the quaint chapel.

• Actor William Holden was Mr. Reagan’s best man when he married Nancy Davis.

• On Mr. Reagan’s one loan-out, to MGM for The Bad Man (1941), Lionel Barrymore ran over his feet with his wheelchair.

• He outsmarted Errol Flynn, a known scene-stealer, during the filming of Santa Fe Trail. When Mr. Flynn tried to place him behind taller actors, Mr. Reagan scraped together dirt with his feet to form a small hill. He ended up being the tallest man in the scene.

• He used a line he spoke in Kings Row - "Where’s the rest of me?"- as the title of his 1965 autobiography.

• He was the first president to wear contact lenses. He began using them at the start of his acting career shortly after they first became available.

• He broke his thighbone in six places when he slid into first base at a celebrity baseball game.

• His first car was a 1934 Nash Lafayette coupe

• His first job was digging ditches. A construction contractor hired the 14-year-old for 10 hours a day, six days a week, at 35 cents an hour. He saved the money (about $200) for his college tuition.

• His favorite movie roles were George Gipp "The Gipper" in >Knute Rockne, All American ; Drake McHugh in Kings Row. His least favorite role was Tom Bates in That Hagen Girl.


• Mr. Reagan’s passion for jelly beans began when he stopped smoking a pipe in the 1960s. While he was the governor of California, he started bringing jars of the candy to staff meetings.

• Goelitz Confectionery created a new flavor, blueberry, for his inauguration in 1980 and sent him 361/2 tons of red (Very Cherry), white (coconut) and blue Jelly Belly beans to celebrate.

• During his presidency, crystal jars of the candy were placed around the White House, and he kept a jar on his desk. Dignitaries received candy jars, decorated with the presidential seal, in blue satin boxes.

• The beans also held a lofty position in the administration. "They had to create a special holder on Air Force One so that they would stay in place," said Tomi Holt, spokeswoman for the Jelly Belly Candy Co.

• His favorite flavor was licorice.


Mr. Reagan joined the Army in 1942, but poor eyesight kept him from battle duty. As a lieutenant and, later, a captain, he oversaw the making of combat training films. Capt. Reagan signed actor Clark Gable’s discharge papers.

Compiled by Sheri Baxter and DMN Research; sources include Associated Press; I Love You, Ronnie by Nancy Reagan; A Different Drummer: My 20 Years With Ronald Reagan by Michael Deaver; Mr. President: The Human Side of America’s Executives by David Rubel; Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia; discoveryschool.com; whitehouse.gov; fortdesmoines.org; imdb.com




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