Wife of Ronald Reagan led anti-drug campaign and supported embryonic stem cell research for Alzheimer’s
Like Reagan, she was a former actor who became immersed in the world of politics, standing by the side of the conservative icon for eight years in the California capital and two terms in the White House. She witnessed firsthand the 1981 assassination attempt on her husband and the Alzheimer’s disease that led to his death in 2004.
The cause of death was congestive heart failure, said a spokeswoman for the Reagan presidential library. She died at her Los Angeles home.
“She is once again with the man she loved,” her stepson, Michael Reagan, wrote on Twitter.
Her most publicized project as first lady was the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Though the was ridiculed for being born of naïveté, Reagan addressed the U.N. General Assembly in 1988, saying the United States should do more with tougher law enforcement and anti-drug education efforts and should stop blaming the poor nations that produce most of the narcotics used by Americans.
“We will not get anywhere if we place a heavier burden of action on foreign governments than on America’s own mayors, judges and legislators. You see, the cocaine cartel does not begin in Medellin, Colombia. It begins in the streets of New York, Miami, Los Angeles and every American city where crack is bought and sold,” she told the General Assembly.
She continued the campaign with the Nancy Reagan Foundation after leaving the White House. The organization helped develop the Nancy Reagan Afterschool Program in 1994 aimed at drug prevention and life skills for youth.
When Reagan learned he had Alzheimer’s disease, he announced the diagnosis to the American people in a poignant letter, which Mrs. Reagan had helped him write, The New York Times said. After her husband developed Alzheimer’s disease, she became an advocate for discovering a cure. But Reagan’s struggle with the devastating disease led his wife to campaign for broader human embryonic stem cell research, a stand that put her at odds with many Republicans, Reuters noted.
“Ronnie’s long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him. Because of this, I’m determined to do whatever I can to save other families from this pain,” she said before his death in 2004.
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