By Sergey Kadinsky
Regarded as an example for all first ladies, Queens-born Nancy Reagan died at the age of 94 on Sunday, March 6. An actress who married her colleague Ronald Reagan and followed his political path to the country’s highest office, she was remembered fondly across the political spectrum as an advocate against illegal drugs, proponent of Alzheimer’s research, stylish White House host to world leaders, and devoted caretaker in her husband’s final two decades of life.
She was born Anne Frances Robbins on July 6, 1921, but was already called Nancy from birth. At the time, her parents’ Flushing home was 417 Amity Street, which would be renamed a year later, after former president Theodore Roosevelt, who died in 1919. The once leafy neighborhood has since boomed in population, and apartment towers dominate the skyline; but the century-old structure at what is now 149-40 Roosevelt Avenue still stands, though in a dilapidated condition. Her family moved to Maryland when she was three years old. As an actress, California first lady, and retiree, she spent most of her life in the Golden State, buried by her husband at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley.
Perhaps it was her husband’s leadership, or maybe the memory of a hometown girl, but in both of his elections, Ronald Reagan won the deeply Democratic state of New York, capturing all of its electoral votes in a feat that hasn’t been yet repeated by any Republican presidential candidate.
Among Jewish leaders, the praise for Reagan includes her political positions and personal approach. “I remember Nancy as a noble woman who supported President Reagan and stood by his side,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “She will be remembered as a great friend of the State of Israel.”
Former Israeli President Shimon Peres, who served as Prime Minister during the Reagan administration, also issued condolences. “I recall her noble nature and fierce fight against drugs and alcohol amongst youth. During her time as first lady, Nancy Reagan would illuminate the White House with a big smile and open heart.”
Across the partisan divide, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic primary candidate, tweeted his condolences. “You didn’t have to be a Reagan Republican to admire and respect Nancy Reagan. She was a tower of strength, unafraid to chart her own course.” New York Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted about Reagan’s support for the Brady Law, which mandated federal background checks for gun purchases. Additionally, Reagan also supported stem cell research, another position that put her at odds with the conservative base of the Republican Party. Democratic front-runner and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton praised her predecessor’s “strength of character… and her advocacy – especially for Alzheimer’s research.”
Among the primary candidates of her party, the praise focused more on her role as a devoted partner to a president who is an exemplary figure and ideological inspiration. Donald J. Trump called Nancy Reagan an “amazing woman,” while Marco Rubio described her as “a true example of integrity and grace.”
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who publicly rebuked Trump last week, issued a more solemn note. “With the passing of Nancy Reagan, we say a final goodbye to the days of Ronald Reagan.” In a deeply polarizing election year, it was a thought echoed by New York Daily News cartoonist Bill Bramhall, who illustrated a crowd standing by a flag at half-staff. “In memory of Nancy Reagan,” said one mourner, to whom another replies, “and the Republican Party.”
http://www.insideedition.com/images/stories/1603/15091.jpg – Nancy Reagan’s childhood home in Flushing, now dilapidated