Ex-First Lady Nancy Reagan dies aged 94

Nancy Reagan pictured in 2007
Nancy Reagan pictured in 2007
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TRIBUTES WERE paid today after former US first lady Nancy Reagans died in California at the age of 94.

Her assistant, Allison Borio, said Mrs Reagan died yesterday at her home in Bel Air, Los Angeles, of congestive heart failure with tributes coming from politicians and her friends Joan Collins and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Her marriage to Ronald Reagan lasted 52 years until his death in 2004.

A former actress, she was Mr Reagan’s closest adviser and fierce protector on his journey from actor to governor of California to president of the United States.

Mrs Reagan’s adopted stepson Michael Reagan led tributes to the former First Lady on Twitter, writing: ‘I am saddened by the passing of my stepmother Nancy Reagan...She is once again with the man she loved. God Bless...’

Tributes flooded in from political figures including aspiring presidents Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

Trump tweeted: “Nancy Reagan, the wife of a truly great President, was an amazing woman. She will be missed!”

Cruz said: “Nancy Reagan will be remembered for her deep passion for this nation and love for her husband, Ronald. The Reagan family is in our prayers.”

Schwarzenegger, who like Reagan went from acting to governing California, wrote on Twitter: “Nancy Reagan was one of my heroes.

“She served as First Lady with unbelievable power, class and grace and left her mark on the world.’

Mitt Romney tweeted: ‘With the passing of Nancy Reagan, God and Ronnie have finally welcomed a choice soul home.”

Actress Joan Collins said: “My friend Nancy Reagan died aged 94 The end of an era, #Love the 80s.”

Mrs Reagan rushed to her husband’s side after he was shot in 1981 by a would-be assassin, and later endured his nearly decade-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

In recent years she broke with fellow Republicans in backing stem cell research as a way to possibly find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Mrs Reagan’s best-known project as first lady was the Just Say No campaign to help children and teenagers stay off drugs.

After her husband’s death in June 2004 she dedicated herself to tending his legacy, especially at his presidential library in California, where he had served as governor.

She also championed Alzheimer’s patients, raising millions of dollars for research and breaking with fellow conservative Republicans to advocate stem cell studies. Her dignity and perseverance in these post-White House roles helped smooth over the public’s fickle perceptions of the former first lady.

The Reagans’ mutual devotion over their long marriage was obvious. They were always holding hands. She watched his political speeches with a look of such steady adoration it was dubbed “the gaze”. He called her “Mommy” and penned a lifetime of gushing love notes. She saved these letters, published them as a book, and found them a comfort when he could no longer remember her.

In announcing his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1994, Reagan wrote: “I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience.”

Ten years later, as his body lay in state in the US Capitol, his widow caressed and gently kissed the flag-draped casket.

Her birth name was Anne Frances Robbins, but she was nicknamed Nancy, She was born on July 6 1921 in New York City. Her parents separated soon after she was born and her mother, film and stage actress Edith Luckett, went on the road.

Nancy was reared by an aunt until 1929, when her mother married Dr Loyal Davis, a wealthy Chicago neurosurgeon who gave Nancy his name and a socialite’s home. She studied drama at Smith College and found stage work with her mother’s help.