A public memorial service will take place for Maureen Reagan, the outspoken daughter of former President Ronald Reagan, who became a crusader for Alzheimer's disease awareness after her father contracted the illness. She died Wednesday morning at age 60 after a battle with skin cancer.
Ms. Reagan, the first child of her father's first marriage to actress Jane Wyman, died at her home in Granite Hills, Calif., near Sacramento. She lived with her husband, Dennis C. Revell, and their 16-year-old daughter, Rita, a Ugandan child the couple adopted in 1995.
An outspoken feminist who disagreed with Ronald Reagan's positions on abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment, she shared her father's passion for politics. Like her father, Ms. Reagan gave up an early acting career to follow her calling for politics.
She made a couple of unsuccessful bids for public office, trying in 1982 for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate that was eventually won by Pete Wilson. In 1992, she finished second among 11 candidates for the nomination for a new House seat, capturing 31 percent of the vote.
From 1987 to 1989, she served as co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, and she created a political-action committee that supported more than 100 women candidates.
She also chaired the U.S. delegation to the 1985 World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women, and served as U.S. representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
Over the years, she was also a political analyst, radio talk show host, commentator and author of First Father, First Daughter: A Memoir.
"My relationship with my father hasn't changed with the years," she wrote. "I still feel for him the same love and respect and admiration I've always felt; if anything, those feelings have deepened with time. He will always be a big, warm, cuddly teddy bear of a father to me, and I will always be his wise-eyed, precocious little girl."
But Ms. Reagan's life took a drastic turn after her father announced in 1994 that he had Alzheimer's disease, saying he was beginning "the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life."
Taking up a charge she said her father would have wanted her to lead, she became a passionate advocate for Alzheimer's patients and their families, speaking and writing frankly of the strain the disease puts on families and caregivers.
"It is a huge toll on caregivers. Anybody who has dealt with this disease as a caregiver to an Alzheimer's patient knows that it is a 24-hour a day job," Reagan told Fox News in January 2000. "There are no days off, and there are no days when it gets better. It is just watching somebody disappear before your very eyes."
She told interviewer Larry King earlier this year that the National Institutes of Health "can only finance about 25 percent of the viable grant requests that they get in a year, which means the science is way ahead of the money."
Reagan said she was only doing what her father would be doing if he could.
"He'd be out beating the drum, making sure people are aware making us understand what we have to do to protect ourselves, and what we need to do to find a preventive," she said. "And since he can't do it, that is what I do," she said.
At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., the flags were lowered to half-staff shortly after the announcement of Maureen Reagan's death. In a statement issued in Los Angeles, Maureen's stepmother, Nancy Reagan, said she had broken the news to the father, who had now ironically outlived her, at the couple's home in Bel Air.
"Maureen Reagan has been a special part of my life since I met Ronnie over 50 years ago. Like all fathers and daughters, there was a unique bond between them. Maureen had his gift of communication, his love of politics, and when she believed in a cause, she was not afraid to fight hard for it," Nancy Reagan said in the statement.
Ms. Reagan wrote movingly of her father's mental decline in an essay in Newsweek last year: "Earlier in the disease we did jigsaw puzzles, usually animal scenes: a farmyard, horses in a meadow, a jungle scene. We started with 300-piece puzzles and worked our way down to 100. Unfortunately, he can't do that anymore."
In addition to Alzheimer's disease, she was dedicated to raising public awareness of melanoma, the form of skin cancer she had, and promoting the importance of skin examinations.
She was diagnosed with the disease in 1996 and underwent infusions of interferon and other treatments. "I had so many nuclear tests I was a night light," she quipped in 1998.
Despite a hectic schedule and family obligations, Ms. Reagan made regular trips to her father's Bel-Air home to visit the ailing former president. Though she lived 200 miles away, she visited her father every two weeks, she told Fox News.
"Maureen has been a great comfort to me these last few years, and has always filled in for Ronnie when she was asked," her stepmother, Nancy Reagan, said earlier this year.
Ms. Reagan, in fact, was often compared to the father whose illness became the final mission of her long, activist career.
In Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, author Edmund Morris wrote of her: "Had she Ronald Reagan's emotional discipline, she might be an assemblywoman somewhere. She is fascinated by politics, and is, if anything, a better speaker than he is, with an avid interest in every issue and a near-Neapolitan fluency of gesture."
Last fall, it was discovered that Maureen Reagan's skin cancer had spread and she underwent a new round of chemotherapy and other treatments. But she was stricken with mild seizures on the Fourth of July, and tests showed the cancer had spread to her brain. She received radiation treatment and was released from the hospital July 23.
Maureen Reagan was born Jan. 4, 1941, a year after her movie-star parents married. In addition to her husband and daughter, she is survived by her father and Mrs. Nancy Reagan; her mother, Jane Wyman; her brothers, Michael Reagan and Ron Reagan; her sister, Patti Davis; and her aunt, Mrs. Neil (Bess) Reagan.
A public memorial service and mass is scheduled for 10 a.m., Saturday, August 18, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church at 1112 26th St. in Sacramento, California. This will be followed by a private graveside service early in the afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this report