June 14, 2004


The Gipper's Final Flight: After an impossible-to-imagine journey, a clan returns to California (HUGH SIDEY, 6/13/04, TIME)

The sinking California sun turned soft red and a breeze ruffled the hillside when Ronald Reagan was laid to rest on the magnificent stage created for his last bow. As the final taps floated out over the shimmering Pacific Ocean, Nancy Reagan held the flag from his casket close to her. She was worn but still resolute from the long week of farewell.

His body had ridden the dark caisson up to the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, and the riderless horse, with Reagan's boots turned backward in the stirrups, had walked behind it. Tens of thousands of people queued up there to give their salutes and mumbled little tributes to this man they thought of as a neighbor. The Washington National Cathedral was filled with the world's power fraternity, including President George W. Bush and all the living former Presidents—Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Jerry Ford—and some who had tried but failed—Al Gore, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale. After the service, Reagan's casket was clamped to the floor in the back of a plane that is used as Air Force One, and he began his journey home with family, old friends and staff. [...]

The very game Thatcher had arrived on board with the formidable hat she wore in Washington stowed in a sturdy box where it would remain for the rest of this journey of tribute, which she insisted on making despite a series of small strokes that had restricted her public life. An examination of the guest book from Blair House, where Nancy stayed last week, showed that Thatcher's touch for brevity and devotion was still intact, though she did not have the strength to talk in the cathedral and had them play her recorded speech. "To Ronnie," she wrote. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 14, 2004 11:33 AM
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