Nancy Reagan was remembered on Friday for her steely devotion to her husband as a first lady who brought class and grace to the White House and, in the words of Tom Brokaw, knew how to “stand her ground.”
Reagan died Sunday at age 94.
Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, his wife Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Rosalynn Carter attended Reagan’s funeral at the hilltop Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where she will be laid to rest next to Ronald Reagan, who died in 2004.
Her daughter Patti Davis said that her parents were “two halves of a circle,” as she recalled her mother’s “ferocious” determination and shared funny stories about the family’s days living in Pacific Palisades, as well what she called their “challenging and contentious relationship.”
But, she said, “there were moments in our history when all that was going on between us was love,” she said.
Davis said that after her father died, her mother shared stories of hearing her father’s footsteps in the house. “She never stopped missing him,” she said.
Brokaw recalled his friendship with Reagan that started when he was an NBC News reporter covering California, including Ronald Reagan’s two gubernatorial campaigns in 1966 and 1970. When Reagan made it to the White House, Brokaw said that he got on her bad side when he said on air that Ronald Reagan’s “poor boy narrative” was “somewhat overblown.”
Not too long after that, Brokaw said he attended a state dinner at the White House, and fretted about what he would say to her in the receiving line. He said to her, spontaneously, “Back to square one.'” The next day, he said, he received a photo of the moment, with an inscription: “Tom, back to square one. Nancy.”
“That was such a telling moment of how astute she was,” Brokaw said. After her husband died, Brokaw recalled having lunch with her and Warren Beatty, and they would share “the best gossip from both coasts.”
Among those who also spoke were Diane Sawyer, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, and James Baker, chief of staff during Reagan’s administration who went on to become secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush.
Son Ron Reagan recalled his parents as “co-equals.” “They complemented one another.”
“My father was inclined to believe that everyone was basically good,” he said, while “my mother didn’t share that inclination.”
“You didn’t want to get on my mom’s bad side, particularly by hurting my father,” he said. But he said that “if my mother had one great talent, I think it was that she knew how to love.”
“Her absolute belief in him gave him the chutzpah to run for office,” he said.
Other attendees included California Gov. Jerry Brown, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, former Secretary of State George Schultz, attorney Ted Olson, producer Norman Lear, Bo Derek, Johnny Mathis, Chris Matthews, Katie Couric, Anjelica Huston, Gary Sinise, Larry King, John Stamos and Mr. T, who advocated as part of Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign in the 1980s. Among the honorary pallbearers were columnist George Will and media titan Jerry Perenchio.