UPDATED: Former first lady Nancy Reagan has died of congestive heart failure at age 94.
Reagan died at her home in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel Air, which adjoins Beverly Hills. Once a screen actress, she met Ronald Reagan when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Reagan will be buried next to her husband overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, which lies north of Los Angeles.
Nancy Reagan is said to have been a liberal behind-the-scenes influence on her husband, the most beloved Republican president of the past several decades. But Reagan was reviled by the gay community for his slow reaction to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Activists say his avoidance of the pandemic during its early days cost millions of lives.
The Reagans were famous for their devotion to one another, although their dysfunctional family — including the former president’s children from his first marriage to movie star Jane Wyman — was a tabloid favorite.
Nancy Reagan won over hearts with her loyalty to her husband during his decline due to Alzheimer’s disease. A year after his death, she formed the Ronald & Nancy Reagan Research Institute in her hometown Chicago.
Nancy Reagan subsequently came out as a vocal advocate for stem-cell research, angering the evangelicals her husband brought into the Republican Party, which eventually changed the party’s character.
Nancy Regan’s special cause as first lady was a major drug prevention crusade aimed at children and young adults. She traveled the world with her “Just Say No” to drugs campaign.
As first lady, Nancy Regan was criticized for her expensive redecoration of the White House, her taste for haute couture and her lavish state dinners. Her nouveau riche excesses were frowned upon during the recession that marked the early years of Ronald Reagan’s 1981 to 1989 presidency.
In the tabloids she was known as “Queen Nancy” and depicted as icy toward her stepchildren. A popular joke during the Reagan era was: “What is Nancy Reagan’s policy on China? She prefers bone.”
This is a developing story.