Ronald Wilson Reagan, 1911 ~ 2004
40th President of United States
Dies at Age 93

Jun 5, 2004

Ronald Reagan, the cheerful crusader who devoted his presidency to winning the Cold War, trying to scale back government and making people believe it was "morning again in America," died Saturday after a long twilight struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

"My family and I would like the world to know that President Ronald Reagan has passed away after 10 years of Alzheimer's disease at 93 years of age. We appreciate everyone's prayers," Nancy Reagan said in a statement.

Nancy Reagan, along with children Ron and Patti Davis, were at the couple's Los Angeles home when Reagan died at 1 p.m. PDT of pneumonia complicated by Alzheimer's disease, said Joanne Drake, who represents the family. Son Michael arrived a short time later, she said.

In Paris, President Bush called Reagan's death "a sad day for America." The U.S. flag over the White House was lowered to half-staff.

Five years after leaving office, the nation's 40th president told the world in November 1994 that he had been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer's, an incurable illness that destroys brain cells. He said he had begun "the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life."

Reagan's body was expected to be taken to his presidential library and museum in Simi Valley, Calif., and then flown to Washington to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. His funeral was expected to be at the National Cathedral, an event likely to draw world leaders. The body was to be returned to California for a sunset burial at his library.

Over two terms, from 1981 to 1989, Reagan reshaped the Republican Party in his conservative image, fixed his eye on the demise of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communism in his singleminded competition with the other superpower.

"Ronald Reagan had a higher claim than any other leader to have won the Cold War for liberty and he did it without a shot being fired," former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said Saturday.

Taking office at age 69, Reagan had already lived a career outside Washington, one that spanned work as a radio sports announcer, an actor, a television performer, a spokesman for the General Electric Co., and a two-term governor of California.

At the time of his retirement, his very name suggested a populist brand of conservative politics that still inspires the Republican Party.

He declared at the outset, "Government is not the solution, it's the problem," although reducing that government proved harder to do in reality than in his rhetoric.

Even so, he challenged the status quo on welfare and other programs that had put government on a growth spurt. In foreign affairs, he built the arsenals of war while seeking and achieving arms control agreements with the Soviet Union.

President Reagan served two terms and left office in 1989 with the highest popularity rating of any retiring president in the history of modern-day public opinion polls.

That reflected, in part, his uncommon ability as a communicator and his way of connecting with ordinary Americans, even as his policies infuriated the left and as his simple verities made him the butt of jokes. "Morning again in America" became his re-election campaign mantra in 1984, but typified his appeal to patriotrism through both terms.

Reagan lived longer than any U.S. president, spending his last decade in the shrouded seclusion wrought by his disease, tended by his wife, Nancy, whom he called Mommy, and the select few closest to him. Now, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are the surviving ex-presidents.

From his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Ford said, "Ronald Reagan was an excellent leader of our nation during challenging times at home and abroad. We extend our deepest condolences and prayers to Nancy and his family."

Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry said that Reagan's "love of country was infectious. Even when he was breaking Democrats hearts, he did so with a smile and in the spirit of honest and open debate."

Although she was fiercely protective of Reagan's privacy, Nancy Reagan let people know the former president's mental condition had deteriorated terribly. Last month, she said: "Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him."

At 69, Reagan was the oldest man ever elected president when he was chosen in 1980, by an unexpectedly large margin over the incumbent Carter.

Near-tragedy struck on his 70th day as president. On March 30, 1981, Reagan was leaving a Washington hotel after addressing labor leaders when a young drifter, John Hinckley, fired six shots at him. A bullet lodged an inch from Reagan's heart, but he recovered.

Four years later he was re-elected by an even greater margin, carrying 49 of the 50 states in defeating Democrat Walter F. Mondale, Carter's vice president.

Reagan's oldest daughter, Maureen, from his first marriage, died in August 2001 at age 60 from cancer. Three other children survive: Michael, from his first marriage, and Patti Davis and Ron from his second.

Bush Comments on Reagan Death

PARIS (AP) - Text of President Bush's remarks on President Reagan's death.

This is a sad hour in the life of America. A great American life has come to an end.

I have just spoken to Nancy Reagan. On behalf of our whole nation, Laura and I offered her and the Reagan family our prayers and our condolences.

Ronald Reagan won America's respect with his greatness, and won its love with his goodness. He had the confidence that comes with conviction, the strength that comes with character, the grace that comes with humility, and the humor that comes with wisdom.

He leaves behind a nation he restored and a world he helped save.

During the years of President Reagan, America laid to rest an era of division and self-doubt. And because of his leadership, the world laid to rest an era of fear and tyranny.

Now, in laying our leader to rest, we say thank you.

He always told us that for America, the best was yet to come. We comfort ourselves in the knowledge that this is true for him, too. His work is done. And now a shining city awaits him.

May God bless Ronald Reagan.

Former Presidents React to Ronald Reagan's Death

Gerald Ford:
"Betty and I are deeply saddened by the passing of our longtime friend, President Reagan. Ronald Reagan was an excellent leader of our nation during challenging times at home and abroad. We extend our deepest condolences and prayers to Nancy and his family."

Bill Clinton:
"Hillary and I will always remember President Ronald Reagan for the way he personified the indomitable optimism of the American people, and for keeping America at the forefront of the fight for freedom for people everywhere. It is fitting that a piece of the Berlin Wall adorns the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington."

Across Eastern Europe, Gratitude to a President Who Helped End Communism

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Leaders, former dissidents and ordinary citizens across eastern Europe expressed gratitude to Ronald Reagan for helping to end decades of "evil empire" communism and Cold War-era oppression.

Most of the region threw off communist rule in 1989, the year Reagan retired from a presidency marked by determination to loosen the grip of the Soviet Union through diplomacy, an intimidating space-based nuclear missile defense system and unrelenting appeals to the masses via Radio Free Europe.

As the world paused to remember the sacrifices of Allied troops 60 years ago on D-Day, leaders such as former Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban reflected on Reagan's influence in bringing democracy to those starved for it behind the Iron Curtain.

"Hungary and Europe do not forget Ronald Reagan's help and his support for the former communist countries," Orban, 41, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

In 1983, Reagan stunned the world by denouncing the Kremlin as an "evil empire" whose nuclear arsenal threatened the globe.

In 1987, in a speech at the Berlin Wall, he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev: "If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization ... tear down this wall."

Throughout, the Reagan administration devoted manpower and cash to quietly expanding its contacts in East bloc countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia.

"He is the one who allowed the breakup of the Soviet Union. May God rest his soul," said Bogdan Chireac, a foreign affairs analyst for the Romanian newspaper Adevarul.

Reagan appointed a deputy secretary of state to shuttle in and out of the region, and encouraged others to do the same. He poured millions of dollars into programming by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, using the airwaves to encourage fledgling pro-democracy movements like Poland's Solidarity.

"During his administration, U.S. citizens at all levels and of all walks of life - politicians, senators, journalists, academics - systematically and repeatedly were visiting Czechoslovakia and other communist countries, meeting the dissidents and the opposition," former Czech dissident Jiri Dienstbier told AP.

"Their open support was very important for our safety and for our position in society," he said.

As his presidency wound down, Reagan lashed out at communism in eastern Europe as "an artificial economic and political system, long imposed on these people against their will."

Within a year, the Berlin Wall had fallen.

"Mr. Reagan, along with Pope John Paul II, was one of the architects who dismantled communism in eastern Europe and stopped the expansion of the Soviet Union," said Ivo Samson, an analyst with the Slovak Foreign Policy Association.

"The fact that today Bulgaria is a member of NATO could happen only after the efforts of this great American president. His name will forever remain in history," said Petko Bocharov, a prominent Bulgarian journalist.

His administration was criticized by human rights activists for waiting until early 1989, the year the brutal Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was toppled and executed, to withdraw that country's "most favored nation" trade status.

But his speeches, which so often sought to encourage the oppressed while taking aim at their oppressors, stirred a generation.

"For us, Reagan was important because we knew he was really anti-communist, emotionally anti-communist," said Zdenek Kosina, 65, a Czech computer specialist.

"For us, he was a symbol of the United States' genuine determination to bring communism to an end."

Laurentiu Ivan, 35, a customs officer in the Romanian capital, struggled to describe Reagan's legacy and then said: "It is due to him that we are free."

Enter recipient's e-mail:



Photographs Provided by Reagan Library

© 2004 Dave ~ PalletMaster ~

PalletMaster's Workshop®.

"There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval."