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California Mourns Loss of Former President Reagan - 2004-06-06

In Sacramento, California, flags over the state capitol are flying at half-staff in honor of former President Ronald Reagan. Mr. Reagan died Saturday in Los Angeles at the age of 93, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. The former president had many admirers in California, where his political career started.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who like Mr. Reagan left a career in Hollywood for another in politics, called the former president a "friend" and a personal "hero."

Former President Gerald Ford, from Rancho Mirage, California, called Mr. Reagan "an excellent leader... during challenging times at home and abroad."

And many close friends remembered the former president in Hollywood, where he was a popular actor in the 1940s and 1950s. He appeared in light comedies, as well as dramas, including the classic football story Knute Rockne: All-American. Mr. Reagan played football star George Gipp in the 1940 film about a dying college hero known as "The Gipper."

Mr. Reagan married the actress Jane Wyman in 1940. They had one daughter, Maureen, and adopted a son, Michael. However, the couple divorced in 1948.

The future president got a taste of politics when he served as head of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947 to 1952.

It was then that he met the actress Nancy Davis, who became his second wife. The couple had two children, Ron Jr. and Patti Davis.

In 1966, Mr. Reagan turned to politics in earnest, when he ran for governor of California. He was elected and took office the following year. He served two terms in Sacramento.

Elected president in 1980, he served from 1981 to 1989. His Hollywood background and native charm would serve him well in that position. He was known as the "great communicator," and left office with the highest popularity rating of any U.S. leader in the history of public opinion polls.

He later recalled his accomplishments as president.

"There were two great triumphs, two things that I'm proudest of," he said. "One is the economic recovery in which the people of America created and filled 19 million new jobs. The other is the recovery of our morale."

Children Ron Jr. and Patti were at the Reagan's Los Angeles home with Mrs. Reagan when the former president died of pneumonia, complicated by Alzheimer's disease. Son Michael arrived a short time later. His daughter Maureen died three years ago of cancer.

Mr. Reagan's body was transported to a funeral home. From there, it will be taken to the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, before being flown to Washington to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. After a Washington funeral, his body will be returned to California for burial at the Reagan Library.