Nancy Reagan Funeral

Family and close friends gather for a graveside service for Nancy Reagan at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, on Friday, March 11, in Simi Valley, California.

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — Former first lady Nancy Reagan was celebrated in a stately funeral Friday that evoked the majestic splendor of her eight years in the White House and a Washington era that she and her husband defined.

Political, business and Hollywood potentates, a thousand in all, came to pay their respects. Her eulogists spoke of her signature elegance, political influence and withering contempt for those who dared cross her. Most of all, they spoke of the Reagans’ marriage as both an abiding love affair and a partnership in power, with Mrs. Reagan serving as her husband’s chief protector and a leading architect of his legacy.

“My life began when I met my husband,” Nancy Davis Reagan once said, and several mourners noted that the same may have been said of him.

The Reagans were “defined by their love for each other,” said former secretary of state James A. Baker III, speaking in a tent erected on the south lawn of the Reagan Presidential Library high on a hill facing the Topatopa Mountains. “Without her, he wouldn’t have been president.”

Their son agreed. “There likely wouldn’t have been a President Ronald Reagan without a Nancy Reagan,” said Ronald Prescott Reagan of his mother, who died Sunday at 94 of congestive heart failure.

While her husband was alive, Mrs. Reagan kept watch over every aspect of his life. Willing to play the heavy and often acknowledged by her husband and his key aides as a the sharper assessor of loyalty and character, she became a polarizing figure in national politics.

“Her determination was ferocious,” said their daughter Patti Davis, remembering a conversation they had when her mother was personally lobbying members of Congress to approve stem-cell research into Alzheimer’s disease, against the Republican Party position. “Even God might not have the guts to argue with Nancy Reagan.”

The couple’s love story was the theme of the 90-minute service, much of it planned meticulously by Mrs. Reagan, and theirs was a compact that could feel exclusionary even to those closest to them.
Nancy Reagan’s daughter makes remarks at mother’s funeral

“My parents were two halves of a circle. Nobody truly crossed the boundaries of the exquisite space that was theirs,” Davis said. But so visceral was the former first lady’s love for her father, Davis said, that her mother felt both haunted and comforted for weeks after his death — hearing his footsteps down the hall, seeing him at the foot of her bed. She described “the circle of their own private world — indestructible, impenetrable, an island for two.”

Yet a remarkable collection of people were invited to hear the narrative of that world, including representatives of 10 White House families. Shortly before the funeral began in a history-filled first row, former first lady Hillary Clinton and Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, helped frail former first lady Rosalynn Carter secure her seat between them.

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