Former first lady Nancy Reagan, who joined her husband on a storybook journey from Hollywood to the White House, died Sunday, according to John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation.
She was 94.
As first lady during Ronald Reagan’s eight years in the White House, she was known as the “Just say no” spokeswoman of anti-drug campaigns, and as a fierce protector of her husband, both personally and politically. When Ronald Reagan was shot in a 1981 assassination attempt, Nancy Reagan never left the hospital where the president was treated until he was released, according to Nancy Reagan’s press secretary, Sheila Tate.
After she and her husband left Washington, she became his protector again as he struggled with Alzheimer’s disease until his death in 2004.
Her official White House biography quotes her as saying, “My life really began when I married my husband.”
Nancy Reagan maintained her political interest — and stature — even into the 2012 Republican presidential contest. Her entrance at a September 2011 debate for 2012 Republican hopefuls at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, prompted a standing ovation from the audience.
Her name was invoked by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in January 2012 as Palin spoke favorably of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s relationship with the former first lady and Reagan’s son Michael.
“There are no two greater keepers of the Reagan legacy than Nancy and Michael Reagan,” Palin wrote in a post on her Facebook page praising Gingrich’s Ronald Reagan connections.
It was at a political event in August 2011, at the library that bears her husband’s name, that Nancy Reagan lost her balance and fell, only to be caught by Sen. Marco Rubio before she hit the ground. Rubio, a Florida Republican, was the featured speaker at the event attended by the former first lady.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, she hosted two debates for Republican candidates at the library, according to her biography on the National First Ladies’ Library website.