your connection to The Boston Globe

President laid to rest in sunset services

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. -- Ronald Wilson Reagan went to his final rest on a California hilltop yesterday in a cinematic finish to a life that took him from a small town in the Midwest to the glamour of Hollywood to the role of a lifetime as the nation's 40th president.

The sunset burial service at Reagan's presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., closed the curtain on six days of remembrance, pageantry, and patriotic ritual for a larger-than-life figure whose influence was felt around the globe.

It was a fitting finale for an actor-turned-politician who retained a showman's flair to the end.

After the military pall bearers had folded the flag, uncovering the polished wood of the coffin, Nancy Reagan pressed her cheek against her husband's coffin, mouthed the words, ''I love you," and gently kissed the casket. She rested her head on the coffin and cried softly while her children and her stepson, Michael Reagan, tried to comfort her.

Next to the gravesite, the former president had these words inscribed: ''I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there is purpose and worth to each and every life."

Earlier, the Reagan siblings offered emotional tributes to their father as the sun slipped slowly toward the Pacific Ocean.

''I don't know why Alzheimer's was allowed to steal so much of my father before releasing him into the arms of death," daughter Patti Davis, 51, said of Reagan's 10-year struggle with the debilitating ailment. ''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."

After sharing some reminiscences, son Ron Reagan veered into a politically sensitive area by seeming to deliver a warning to President Bush and other politicians who talk about their religious faith at political events. Ron Reagan said his father was ''a deeply, unabashedly religious man, but he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians, wearing his religious faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage."

He added that although Reagan ''came to believe that God had spared him" from a 1981 assassination attempt, he concluded that the divine intervention left him with ''a responsibility, not a mandate, and there is a profound difference."

The intensely personal burial service came hours after a memorial at the Washington National Cathedral, where world leaders remembered the 40th president as a man of humor, humility, and bedrock American values.

Material from the Washington Post was used in this report.

Ronald Wilson Reagan: Remembered
MESSAGE BOARD readers share their thoughts on Ronald Reagan.
Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives