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Ronald Reagan Burial

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Ronald Reagan Burial, June 11, 2004, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, California, United States
Ronald Reagan, Buried

Ronald Wilson Reagan, the nation’s 40th president, was buried on a golden Southern California hilltop Friday, after a funeral in Washington National Cathedral attended by hundreds of world leaders, past and present.

The ceremonies ended a week of mourning and majesty that honored the uniquely American figure who was credited with hastening the end of the Cold War. Reagan died June 5 at 93.

A presidential jet delivered his body to California, where the former statesman and showman was laid to rest in a horseshoe-shaped burial site at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library — shaded by seven oak trees and overlooking a panoramic farm valley, with the Pacific Ocean beyond.

The day began in the gray mist of a Washington drizzle and ended in the glow of a California sunset. Formal tributes in the nation’s capital gave way to the more intimate embrace of the Santa Susana Mountains and the tender memories of the children who loved him.

Michael Reagan spoke of his father’s gift of Christian faith and his advice on how to have a long and happy marriage: “You’ll never get in trouble if you say ‘I love you’ at least once a day.”

Patti Davis recounted how the man who would be president taught his daughter about death by helping her bury her goldfish.

And Ronald Prescott Reagan talked about his father’s optimism, his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and his last trip home: “In his final letter to the American people, Dad wrote: ‘I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.’ This evening, he has arrived.”

Luminaries and laymen on both coasts searched Friday for ways to honor the son of a Midwestern shoe salesman who had risen to Hollywood celebrity, the California governorship and a presidency that spawned a conservative era in American politics.

“Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now, but we preferred it when he belonged to us,” President Bush said during an interfaith service in the majestic cathedral, where about 3,500 people gathered in one of the greatest assemblages of power and influence the capital had seen in decades. “When the sun sets tonight off the coast of California and we lay to rest our 40th president, a great American story will close.”

It was a ceremony of solemn music and soaring tribute. Bush’s voice cracked once; his father, President George H.W. Bush, fought back tears. But for Nancy Reagan, 82, her husband’s companion and fierce protector throughout public life, it was a day spent letting go.

“There was only one person he said could make him lonely by just leaving the room,” President Bush said in one of several nods to the former first lady, who looked frail and spent as she persevered through the seventh straight day of public mourning. “America honors you, Nancy, for the loyalty and love you gave this man on a wonderful journey.”

On his last day, in his last moments, Reagan himself had paid mute tribute to his beloved wife. In her graveside eulogy at the presidential library, Davis described her father’s end: “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.”

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