Three days of mourning begin for former first lady Nancy Reagan

Published: Wednesday 9th March 2016 by The News Editor

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Three days of formal mourning and solemn ceremonies for former first lady Nancy Reagan have begun across the US.

A small ceremony for family and friends in Santa Monica, California, was being followed by a motorcade leading to a public viewing at Simi Valley’s Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, which will continue on Thursday.

Eight secret service agents who served the Reagans will act as pallbearers when the body is taken from the Santa Monica funeral home.

The funeral – which was planned down to the smallest detail by the former first lady herself – will be held on Friday.

Just as she was always by his side in life, Nancy Reagan will be laid to rest just inches from former president Ronald Reagan on a hillside tomb facing west towards the Pacific Ocean.

Before her death she planned the funeral’s flower arrangements, the music to be played by a US Marine Corps band and the people who received invitations to the private memorial.

Among those who will attend the service are former president George W Bush and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, first lady Michelle Obama, and former first lady Hillary Clinton.

“No doubt about it, the most important of her special requests was that she be laid to rest right next to the president, as close as possible,” said John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.

“The way the tomb is constructed,” he continued, “her casket will literally be set forth in the ground inches from president Reagan’s.”

The hour-long service, to which approximately 1,000 people have been invited, is to take place on the library’s lawn. On a clear day the grave site affords visitors ocean views.

Others who have said they will attend include former president Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia Nixon Cox and former president Lyndon Johnson’s daughters Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson.

“One of our saddest situations is we have so many people who have called or written, saying they would like to attend, but unfortunately it needs to be by invitation only because we only have so much room on the lawn,” Mr Heubusch said. “As a result, Mrs Reagan was very adamant about having some time where the public could come by and pay last respects.”

First ladies’ funerals, once a quiet affair, changed significantly following the death of Franklin D Roosevelt’s widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1962.

Mrs Roosevelt, a United Nations delegate, author and prominent political figure in her own right, tried to keep the event fairly quiet, limiting the guest list to 250 people, although those guests included president John F Kennedy, former presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D Eisenhower, and future president Lyndon Johnson. More than 1,000 mourners jammed the streets outside the church in Hyde Park, New York.

The most recent first lady’s funeral was for president Gerald Ford’s widow, Betty, in 2011. Some 800 people, including Mrs Reagan, attended a private memorial service for her in Palm Springs, California, followed by a second, smaller service in her home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Published: Wednesday 9th March 2016 by The News Editor

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