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Former President Ronald Reagan Laid to Rest - 2004-06-12


Former President Ronald Reagan was laid to rest in California in a sunset service Friday. The day began with a state funeral in Washington, where President Bush and world dignitaries paid respects to the former U.S. leader. The California interment was an intimate ceremony for close friends and family members.

In Washington, four surviving former presidents were there for the elaborate state funeral at Washington National Cathedral. Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, President Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton joined heads of state and government from around the world in remembering the former U.S. leader.

President Bush said power and influence did not change Mr. Reagan, who remained the same as president as he was in his early days in two small Midwestern cities.

"Ronald Reagan spent decades in the film industry and in politics, fields known on occasion to change a man. But not this man. From Dixon [Illinois] to Des Moines [Iowa], to Hollywood to Sacramento, to Washington D.C., all who met him remembered the same sincere, honest, upright fellow," he said.

President Bush's father, the former president Bush, was choking back emotion as he recalled his time in the Reagan administration.

"As his vice president for eight years, I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life. I learned kindness. We all did. I also learned courage. The nation did," former president Bush said.

Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, called Mr. Reagan "a great man" who addressed "daunting historic tasks." She also called him "a dear friend." Mrs. Thatcher was present at the Washington funeral and the California interment, but because of her poor health, she spoke about Mr. Reagan through a videotaped message.

"He sought to mend America's wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism. These were causes hard to accomplish and heavy with risk. Yet they were pursued with almost a lightness of spirit," she said.

In Washington, Mrs. Thatcher sat next to former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev, a one-time foe of Mr. Reagan's who developed a personal friendship with him.

Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, another friend of the late president, recalled Mr. Reagan's down-to-earth style and sense of humor. He also said Mr. Reagan has "a rare and prized gift called leadership."

After the Washington funeral, the Reagan family and close friends boarded a presidential aircraft for the five-hour flight across the country. Behind the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, the former president was laid to rest in a sunset service.

A lone bagpiper played the hymn Amazing Grace, and Mr. Reagan's three surviving children spoke about their father. Son Michael and daughter Patti Davis recalled his 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Ms. Davis also recalled the love between her father and mother, Nancy, the former president's wife of 52 years.

"I don't know why Alzheimer's was allowed to steal so much of my father before releasing him into the arms of death, but I know that at his last moment, when he opened his eyes, eyes that had not opened for many, many days, and looked at my mother, he showed us that neither disease nor death can conquer love," she said.

President Bush said the interment of former President Reagan will close "a great American story."

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