I was sitting in the Tonopah Station lobby the other day when someone asked me about Nancy Reagan.
At age 94, the former first lady had died just a few hours before, causing people in Tonopah to reflect on her legacy.
Seeing all of the campaign buses along U.S. Highway 95 this year, I am still trying to figure out if she ever passed or stopped in Tonopah – maybe on one of Ronald Reagan’s campaign swings in 1976, 1980 or 1984.
The one thing that’s clear is that Nancy Reagan (I always called her “Mrs. Reagan” out of respect) was a fierce protector of her husband. She always was looking out for her husband, making sure that he was well-served. Former Reagan administration insiders Donald Regan and Edwin Meese are two people who come to mind when I recall Mrs. Reagan standing up to power.
Though Mrs. Reagan and the president left the White House 27 years ago, she was in my thoughts around this past Christmastime when my step-grandmother died at age 90. Mrs. Reagan always reminded me of my step-grandmother in their loyalty to their husbands and looking after their interests, the way both women dressed so fashionably, their class and elegance, to name just a few things. Coincidentally, both also were the second wives of their husbands.
My own grandma died at 53 of breast cancer. Fortunately for my grandpa, he met my future step-grandma, Marianne, a short time later. They were married 17 years before my grandpa died unexpectedly at age 74. When I wrote a condolence note to Marianne’s daughter this past December, one of the first things I mentioned was how much Marianne had always reminded me of Mrs. Reagan in all the best ways.
Just a day before Mrs. Reagan’s death, I was out in a Nye County store where I happened upon a distinguished man born in 1924. I started asking him about his life experiences. He mentioned that his first job was hauling manure on a farm. He ended his career as a mortgage banker.
He was very upbeat about life, but toward the end of our conversation, he became misty-eyed, mentioning that his wonderful wife had died in 2014 and that it remains devastating to this day.
Reading about Nancy Reagan’s death the next day, I thought back to that elderly Nye County man and the loss of his spouse.
Mrs. Reagan’s obituary noted that she had spoken to Vanity Fair magazine in 2009 about losing her husband of 52 years in 2004. “I miss Ronnie a lot, an awful lot,” she said. “People say it gets better. No, it does not.”
Many people can sympathize.
Contact reporter David Jacobs at firstname.lastname@example.org.