A Love Like The Reagans’
|December 18, 2012||Posted by V under loves it, marriage|
According to Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, “At the last moment, when his breathing told us this was it, he opened his eyes and looked straight at my mother. Eyes that hadn’t opened for days did, and they weren’t chalky or vague. They were clear and blue and full of love. If a death can be lovely, his was.” His wife, former First Lady Nancy Reagan told him that the moment was “the greatest gift you could have given me.”
During her Hollywood career Davis dated many actors, including Clark Gable, Robert Stack, and Peter Lawford; she later called Gable the nicest of the stars she had met. On November 15, 1949, she met Ronald Reagan, who was then president of the Screen Actors Guild. Nancy had noticed that her name had appeared on the Hollywood blacklist and sought Reagan’s help to maintain her employment as a guild actress in Hollywood, and for assistance in having her name removed from the list. Reagan informed her that she had been confused with another actress of the same name. The two began dating and their relationship was the subject of many gossip columns; one Hollywood press account described their nightclub-free times together as “the romance of a couple who have no vices”. Ronald Reagan was skeptical about marriage, however, following his painful 1948 divorce from Jane Wyman, and he still saw other women. After three years of dating, he eventually proposed to Davis in the couple’s favorite booth at the Beverly Hills restaurant Chasen’s. They married on March 4, 1952 in a simple ceremony designed to avoid the press at the Little Brown Church in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. The only people in attendance were actor William Holden, the best man, and his wife, actress Brenda Marshall, the matron of honor. The couple’s first child, Patricia Ann Reagan (better known by her professional name, Patti Davis), was born on October 21, 1952. Their son, Ronald Prescott Reagan, was born six years later on May 20, 1958. Nancy Reagan also became stepmother to Maureen Reagan (1941–2001) and Michael Reagan (born 1945), the children of her husband’s first marriage to Jane Wyman.
Observers described Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s relationship as intimate. As President and First Lady, the Reagans were reported to display their affection frequently, with one press secretary noting, “They never took each other for granted. They never stopped courting.” Ronald often called Nancy “Mommy”; she called him “Ronnie”. While the President was recuperating in the hospital after the 1981 assassination attempt, Nancy Reagan wrote in her diary, “Nothing can happen to my Ronnie. My life would be over.” In a letter to Nancy, Ronald wrote, “whatever I treasure and enjoy … all would be without meaning if I didn’t have you.” In 1998, while her husband was afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, Nancy told Vanity Fair, “Our relationship is very special. We were very much in love and still are. When I say my life began with Ronnie, well, it’s true. It did. I can’t imagine life without him.” Nancy was known for the focused and attentive look, termed “the Gaze”, that she fastened upon her husband during his speeches and appearances. President Reagan’s death in June 2004 ended what Charlton Heston called “the greatest love affair in the history of the American Presidency.”
Nancy Reagan assumed the role of unofficial “protector” for her husband after the attempted assassination on his life in 1981. On March 30 of that year, President Reagan and three others were shot as they left the Washington Hilton Hotel. Nancy was alerted and arrived at George Washington University Hospital, where the President was hospitalized. She recalled having seen “emergency rooms before, but I had never seen one like this—with my husband in it.” She was escorted into a waiting room, and when granted access to see her husband, he quipped to her, “Honey, I forgot to duck”, borrowing the defeated boxer Jack Dempsey’s jest to his wife.
An early example of her protective nature occurred when Senator Strom Thurmond entered the President’s hospital room that day in March, passing the Secret Service detail by claiming he was the President’s “close friend”, presumably to acquire media attention. Nancy was outraged and demanded he leave. While the president recuperated in the hospital, the first lady slept with one of his shirts to be comforted by the scent. When Reagan was released from the hospital on April 12, she escorted him back to the White House.
Nancy Reagan’s health and well-being became a prominent concern in 2008. In February she suffered a fall at her Bel Air home and was taken to St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Doctors reported that she did not break a hip as feared and she was released from the hospital two days later. News commentators noted that Reagan’s step had slowed significantly, as the following month she walked in very slow strides with John McCain. NBC’s Brian Williams, who attended a dinner with Reagan in mid-2008, recalled, “Mrs. Reagan’s vision isn’t what it always was so she was taking very halting steps as a lot of folks her age do… [I]t is so important for folks in her age bracket and in her bracket of life to remain upright and captain of their own ship. She very much is captain of her own ship.” As for her mental ability, Williams remarked, “She’s as sharp as ever and enjoys a robust life with her friends in California, but [falling] is always a danger of course. She’s a very stoic, hardy person full of joy and excitement for life… She is not without opinions on politics and political types these days… She is, as most of her friends described her, a pistol.”
LOVE that her friends describe her as a pistol! She’s 91 and that is awesome! Hopefully I’ll still be a pistol at that age! 😉