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Nancy Reagan: President’s Wife, King’s Daughter

President Ronald Reagan and Mrs. Nancy Reagan greet reporters on the South Lawn of the White House shortly after their return from the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md., on July 22, 1984. The Reagan’s spent the weekend at Camp David. (AP Photo/Tim Aubry)Her style captivated us, her social grace motivated us, and her presence enlivened her husband. President Reagan, in a letter to Nancy on their thirty-first anniversary, wrote, "I more than love you, I'm not whole without you. You are life itself to me. When you are gone I'm waiting for you to return so I can start living again." Nancy Reagan, at the age of ninety-four, joined her Savior and Mr. Reagan late Sunday afternoon.

Born July 6, 1921, a young Nancy grew up in New York City. She took an interest in acting from a young age, following after her mother. Attending various schools on the east coast, Nancy eventually graduated from Smith College, where she majored in English and Drama.

From there, her star took off. She had various roles in eleven feature films from 1949 to 1956. But trouble lay on the horizon when she found out that another actress with the same name appeared on the Hollywood blacklist. Concerned about confusion, Nancy sought to sort this out by meeting with the president of the Screen Actors Guild, Ronald Reagan.

Nancy asked a friend to introduce her to him, though she already knew who her future "Ronnie" was. Smitten and taken by his looks and affable smile, Nancy and friend set up the meeting And as Mrs. Reagan reflected years later, "My life really began when I married my husband." In her 1989 memoir My Turn, Nancy wrote, "He was all I had ever wanted in a man, and more."

On March 4, 1952, they would marry and, as Charlton Heston found, theirs was "probably the greatest love affair in the history of the American Presidency." In an 1998 interview, she said "I can't imagine life without him. . . . thank God we found each other."

His love for her was one for the ages. "My darling, I love you so very much," the future president wrote to his wife on March 20, 1955. "I don't even mind that life made me wait so long to find you. The waiting only made the feeling sweeter."

As the feeling sweetened, their love expanded. Their love for each other was coupled with a love for God. While in California, they attended Bel Air Presbyterian Church. As their public profile grew, it became increasingly difficult to go to church without drawing attention away from the service. So they stopped going to church as often, but they continued to bring the love from the church to those around them. Their loving actions spoke louder than their sparse attendance.

He adored her; she protected him. Known as a fierce protector of her husband, Nancy positioned herself as one of the chief advisors to her Ronnie. As both Governor of California and President of the United States, Ronald Reagan had a trusted confidant in Nancy. Tom Brokaw of NBC added that the first lady became one of "the two or three most important" political advisers in the president's administration.

He loved her; she devoted herself to him. In announcing his Alzheimer's diagnosis in 1994, President Reagan wrote, "I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience." It was painful for Nancy, but there was no other place she would have wanted to be. When he died in 2004, the world watched as Mrs. Regan leaned over her beloved's final resting place and softly kissed the flag-draped casket one last time.

This act of love would not be the last. For the remainder of her life, she continued her advocacy work through the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Institute.  It aimed to cure the disease that robbed the world of her Ronnie.

Though he was gone, he was not forgotten. And now that she is gone, she will not be forgotten. Nancy, among many things, was known for her gaze. When President Reagan spoke, Nancy myopically gazed at her husband. She noticed him, we noticed her.

Sometimes, words fail to fully capture and communicate the actions in a moment. One might say we are without words. Shakespeare found that this because of love, which is the smoke raised from the fume of sighs. Where words fail quietly, actions speak loudly. Nancy's devotion to her Ronnie beautifully captures our attention. The world may not listen to your explanation of the faith, but they are watching your living out of the faith.  Is it a sight for sore eyes or a view to behold?

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