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Former President Ronald Reagan Turns 92

Former President Ronald Reagan, rarely seen in public since announcing he has Alzheimer's disease in 1994, quietly marked his 92nd birthday Thursday in his Bel-Air home with his wife, former first lady Nancy Reagan.

Joanne Drake, the former president's chief of staff, said a low-key affair was planned. She said chocolates — Reagan's favorite — will play a part in his day.

"He's comfortable and doing as well as anyone could expect for a man of 92," Drake said. "He's going to be around a long, long time."

At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., visitors are celebrating "The Gipper" with a birthday cake and are encouraged to sign a giant card. Jellybeans, a Reagan staple, also are being handed out.

Reagan admirers across the nation joined in saluting the former president.

In Connecticut, it was Ronald Reagan Day. Republican Gov. John G. Rowland's proclamation was a tribute to the man who "inherited a disillusioned nation shackled by rampant inflation and high unemployment" when he took office in 1981 and helped restore "accountability and common sense to government."

On May 10, the USS Ronald Reagan — the Navy's newest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier — will be commissioned in Norfolk, Virginia.

In Tallahassee, Fla., the birthday was noted during an Alzheimer's summit featuring a keynote address by Dennis Revell, an Alzheimer's Association national board member who was married to the late Maureen Reagan.

"He's under the incredible care of Nancy, his nurses, his doctors. He's doing well for a man of 92," Revell said.

Reagan is the longest living U.S. president in history. Prior to that, the nation's second president, John Adams, had owned the title. He died when he was 90 and 247 days.

A popular Republican who served two terms in the 1980s, Reagan was known as "The Great Communicator" for making masterful speeches to win support for his policies.

Born Feb. 6, 1911, in Tampico, Ill., Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and worked as a radio sportscaster in the Midwest. He then moved to Hollywood, where he made 52 movies and had his first taste of politics as a five-time president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Reagan's political career kicked into high gear after his well-received televised speech on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964. He was elected governor of California in 1966 and re-elected two years later. He also made two failed attempts at the White House in 1968 and 1976 before his 1980 victory.

As a tribute to Reagan's legacy, Congress and President Clinton officially changed the name of Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in February 1998.

Reagan's childhood home in Dixon, Ill., was named a national historic site last year on the former president's 91st birthday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.