Vignettes from Nancy Reagan's life

LOS ANGELES -- Those who worked with former US President Ronald Reagan say Nancy Reagan was intelligent and loyal to her husband.

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As first lady, Mrs. Reagan was a trusted adviser and held backstage power in the Reagan administration, which began in 1981.

After the presidency, she was a caregiver during Reagan's battle with Alzheimer's and a protector of his legacy after his death.

Mrs. Reagan died Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 94.

Here's a look at the personal side of Mrs. Reagan:

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FIERCE INTELLIGENCE

Martin Anderson, domestic policy adviser in Reagan's 1980 campaign and his first term in the White House, wrote in his book, "Revolution":

"Nancy Reagan was an important and active participant in virtually all the important discussions that took place during the campaign. She was highly intelligent, with a sixth sense for asking insightful, penetrating questions. Above all, her judgments on public policy issues, political strategy, and personnel were superb ... Reagan recognized a good mind when he encountered one, and he consulted her constantly on just about everything. On the other hand, he would never hesitate to overrule her counsel, although he seldom did so because she was usually right."

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PRESIDENTIAL AIDE

Political scientist Richard Neustadt in his book "Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents:"

"The aide in charge of warning him (Reagan) when threats appeared against his public standing or historical appeal ... that special staff role, of immense importance to someone habitually incurious about detail, had been assigned his wife. More precisely, she had made it hers since Sacramento."

"But when it came to people, her reported targets seem well chosen, aim unerring and timing right for someone who must wait for someone else to pull the trigger."

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ASKING QUESTIONS

James Kuhn, Reagan's second-term executive assistant, credited Nancy Reagan with much of her husband's success but said she was hard to please and "could ask questions that there were no answers to."

For example, she would demand details of the weather in whatever place the Reagans were going, Kuhn said in an interview made as part of a University of Virginia oral history project on the Reagan years.

"And she'd say: 'Rain. Why is it raining? Why is it raining in Cleveland?"' Kuhn related.

"I'd say, 'Well, I guess there's a low pressure system that came in.'

"'Well, why?'

"I'd think, 'Oh, God, I'm getting in deeper here."'

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UNFORGETTABLE MEETING

Nancy Reagan recounted one of the lighter moments of White House life at a 1994 George Washington University gathering on the role of first ladies.

It happened, she said, at a meeting "with this lady who we were trying to convince to do something for the White House."

"I had on a blouse and a wraparound skirt. And she got up to leave, and I got up to shake hands with her. ... The skirt is down at my ankles and I'm standing there in my pantyhose and my blouse," she recalled to gales of laughter.

"I don't know whether we ever got the money from the lady, but I said to her, 'I'm sure this is a meeting you're never going to forget."'

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COPING WITH ALZHEIMER'S

By 1999, Nancy Reagan had been trying to cope with her husband's Alzheimer's diagnosis for five years, and she was asked in a C-Span interview what she had learned.

"That it is probably the worst disease you can ever have," she replied. "Because you lose contact and you're not able to share. In our case, to share all of those wonderful memories that we have."

Asked what she did when her husband didn't recognize visitors, she replied: "Well, now we don't have visitors ... we never let that happen."



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