First Lady Planned Funeral Down to Smallest Detail - NBC Bay Area

First Lady Planned Funeral Down to Smallest Detail

Just as in life, the most important funeral detail for former First Lady Nancy Reagan was that she be "as close as possible" to her husband

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Nancy Reagan will be laid to rest Friday just inches from President Ronald Reagan on a hillside tomb facing west toward the Pacific Ocean after a ceremony that will include flower arrangements, music and a guest list of famous names.

    All of it, down to the smallest details, was planned by the former first lady.

    Among those who had RSVP'd for the service were former President George W. Bush and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush; former first lady Rosalynn Carter; first lady Michelle Obama; and former first lady Hillary Clinton. Others who have said they will attend include President Richard Nixon's daughter Tricia Nixon Cox and President Lyndon Johnson's daughters Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson.

    The music will be provided by a U.S. Marine Corps band and the flower arrangements will be a reminder of Nancy Reagan's style and grace.

    But there is no question about the detail that mattered most to Nancy Reagan.

    "No doubt about it, the most important of her special requests was that she be laid to rest right next to the president, as close as possible," said John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. "The way the tomb is constructed, her casket will literally be set forth in the ground inches from President Reagan's."

    First ladies' funerals, once a quiet affair, changed significantly following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, in 1962. Mrs. Roosevelt, a United Nations delegate, author and prominent political figure in her own right, tried to keep the event fairly quiet, limiting the guest list to 250 people, although those guests included President John F. Kennedy, former Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and future President Lyndon Johnson. More than 1,000 mourners jammed the streets outside the church in Hyde Park, New York.

    The most recent first lady's funeral was for President Gerald Ford's widow, Betty, in 2011. Some 800 people, including Mrs. Reagan, attended a private memorial service for her in Palm Springs, California, followed by a second, smaller service in her hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    When former President Richard Nixon's wife, Pat, died in 1993 some 4,000 people attended a public viewing for her at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California. A private service took place the next day, and Mrs. Reagan and her husband were among those who attended.

    The hour-long Reagan service, to which approximately 1,000 people have been invited, is to take place on the library's lawn. On a clear day the gravesite affords visitors ocean views from the hillside about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

    "One of our saddest situations is we have so many people who have called or written, saying they would like to attend, but unfortunately it needs to be by invitation only because we only have so much room on the lawn, Heubusch said. "As a result, Mrs. Reagan was very adamant about having some time where the public could come by and pay last respects."

    The private ceremony will follow three days of mourning, including a public viewing. Reagan's casket is scheduled to leave a Santa Monica funeral home Wednesday morning for the Reagan Library in Simi Valley.

    Public viewings are scheduled at the library from 1 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday.