Former first lady Nancy Reagan, the widow of 40th U.S. President Ronald Reagan, died Sunday at age 94. Known for her fierce loyalty to her husband and “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign while in the White House, Nancy Reagan passed away from congestive heart failure in her Bel Air, California, home, according to a spokesman for the family.
After the former president died in 2004 from Alzheimer’s, Nancy Reagan continued to serve as an active member of the Republican Party and guardian of her husband’s legacy. She is survived by her two children, Patti Davis and Ronald Reagan Jr, as well as a stepson, Michael Reagan.
“A woman is like a tea bag, you can not tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water,” the former first lady once famously said, borrowing a quote from fellow first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
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Born July 6, 1921, Anne Frances “Nancy” Robbins grew up in New York City and Maryland and went on to get a degree in dramatic arts from Smith College. She scored a contract with MGM in 1949 and met her future husband in 1951, when he was an actor and president of the Screen Actors Guild. The pair married one year later. “My life began with Ronnie,” she told Vanity Fair magazine in 1998.
Nancy Reagan supported her husband throughout his terms as California governor and during his time in the White House. She was an avid advocate of veterans’ rights, visiting wounded Vietnam veterans and supporting programs to better their welfare upon their return home. Her anti-drug campaign, which received accolades and also sparked heavy criticism, was one of her lasting legacies as first lady.
Following her husband’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 1994, Nancy Reagan became an advocate for stem-cell research, often putting her at odds with the Republican Party.
“And now science has presented us with a hope called stem-cell research, which may provide our scientists with many answers that have for so long been beyond our grasp. I don’t see how we can turn our backs on this,” she said in 2004, according to a statement from the Ronald Reagan library. “There are so many diseases that can be cured or at least helped,” the former first lady said, adding, “We’ve lost so much time already. I can’t bear to lose any more.”
Nancy Reagan will be buried next to her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California ABC reported, citing a spokesman close to the family.