America Mourns: Ronald Reagan Dies at 93

The Reagan family thanked people around the globe for their love and support as they started a six-day long period of mourning for former President Ronald Reagan.

"It's going to be a hard six days ahead of them," Joanna Drake, who represents the Reagan family, said Sunday.

Reagan, 93, died Saturday following a 10-year battle with Alzheimer's disease (search). He had left office at the end of his second term in 1989.

Drake said the family was "deeply touched" with the outpouring of sympathy and well-wishes received via telephone, fax and e-mail.

"As you can understand, the family is in deep morning over a husband, a father a grandfather and their hero," Drake said.

Asked what it was like to work for Reagan for the past 20 years, Drake said: "It was an honor, one that I wish every American could experience. He was an extraordinary man and I feel honored my children got a chance to meet him. I know his legacy will carry this country far, far into the future."

The schedule for Reagan's funeral events — a more detailed version of which can be found on — is as follows:

Monday at 11 a.m. PDT, the Reagan family will have a private ceremony at the Reagan Presidential Library.

After the family ceremony, an official lying in repose will begin in the main lobby of library for the public to pay their respects. This will last until Tuesday at 6 p.m. PDT.

On Wednesday, Reagan's body will be flown to Andrews Air Force Base and that evening a formal funeral procession will be held to take Reagan to the U.S. Capitol. He will be in the rotunda for the public to pay their respects through Thursday.

On Friday after a 10:30 a.m. departure ceremony at the Capitol, the Reagan motorcade will depart for the Washington National Cathedral, where a funeral service will be held. The family will leave Andrews Air Force Base that afternoon to go back to California, where a private interment service will be held at the Reagan library.

As the world looked back on the life of Reagan both his supporters and detractors alike agreed that the popular, infectiously optimistic president changed the world.

During his eight years in office, Reagan reshaped and revived the Republican Party while devoting most of his foreign-policy energies to the dismantling of Soviet communism.

President Bush on Sunday paid tribute to Reagan during a D-Day commemoration at Colleville-sur-Mer, France, that drew leaders from more than a dozen countries.

"Twenty summers ago, another American president came here to Normandy to pay tribute to the men of D-Day. He was a courageous man, himself, and a gallant leader in the cause of freedom. And today we honor the memory of Ronald Reagan," Bush said, prompting applause.

Flags sank to half-staff in America. The U.S. flag over the White House was lowered to half-staff within an hour and there were moments of silence at ballparks and at the nationally televised Belmont Stakes horse race. Ballparks went mute for the former Chicago Cubs announcer. In Dixon, Ill., Reagan's childhood home, Ken and Marilyn Knotts laid two roses under his statue.

From coast to coast, Americans of all political persuasions invoked the pithy statements offered by the man whose crack staff helped make the term "sound bite" a household word. Among them: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

Reagan was remembered by Americans with jelly beans, flowers and American flags on Sunday at memorials in his hometown and outside the mortuary where the former president's body lay.

"Thank you for changing the world," said a handwritten note outside the mortuary.

At Reagan's boyhood home in Dixon, Ill., mourners left flowers, flags and packets of Jelly Belly jelly beans -- his favorite -- at the feet of a life-sized statue of Reagan in the front yard.

Ken Dunwoody, 82, who grew up outside Dixon, said the Republican icon transcends partisan politics.

"I just think of him as being an American," Dunwoody said. "I wish we all could get back to that."

At Bel Air Presbyterian Church, which Reagan attended during and after his presidency, worshipper Rose McNally recalled how members of the congregation would react to his arrival.

"As soon as he'd start up the ramp, people would pick up a piece of paper, any piece of paper, to get him to sign," she said. "He was a great man."

The Rev. Mark Brewer opened Sunday's first service with a remembrance, saying, "As a nation, we grieve this week."

"He brought with him not only a love for the nation but also a sense of humor," Brewer told about 500 people. He lauded Reagan's leadership in the Cold War, calling it the "third great war" of the century.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan and the couple's children, Ron Reagan and Patti Davis, were at the couple's Los Angeles home Saturday when the nation's 40th president died at 1 p.m. of pneumonia, a complication of Alzheimer's. His son Michael Reagan, from his first marriage, arrived a short time later, said Joanne Drake, the Reagan family's chief of staff.

In a piece written for Time magazine before Reagan's death, Nancy Reagan said her husband felt his greatest accomplishment was finding a safe end to the Cold War.

"I think they broke the mold when they made Ronnie," she wrote. "He was a man of strong principles and integrity. He had absolutely no ego, and he was very comfortable in his own skin; therefore, he didn't feel he ever had to prove anything to anyone."

Former President Ford said, "Ronald Reagan was an excellent leader of our nation during challenging times at home and abroad. We extend our deepest condolences and prayers to Nancy and his family."

Reagan had announced to the world in November 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, an incurable disease that destroys brain cells and leads to severe memory loss.

"When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future," Reagan wrote at the time. "I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead."

He was rarely seen in public afterward, and although fiercely protective of his privacy, Reagan's wife had let people know over the years that his mental condition had deteriorated terribly.

"Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place where I can no longer reach him," she said last month.

Reagan had lived longer than any U.S. president, spending his last decade in the shrouded seclusion wrought by his disease, tended by his wife, whom he affectionately called Mommy, and the few closest to him.

Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton survive him as ex-presidents.

'A Figure of Towering Strength'

"We often disagreed on issues of the day, but I had immense respect and admiration for his leadership and his extraordinary ability to inspire the nation to live up to its high ideals," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

Kennedy said Reagan's appeal to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall" in reference to the Berlin Wall, is comparable to President Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.

Bill Bennett, the secretary of education under Reagan, told Fox News that the deceased leader "was a great boss, he was a great mentor....He changed the political landscape, he changed the world — he's an extraordinary man."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News: "Reagan taught us to be optimistic. He taught us to look to the future."

James Baker, former Reagan chief of staff and treasury secretary, said of his former-boss: "There are many people in Washington who didn't like his policies, but they couldn't dislike the man himself."

And on "Fox News Sunday," Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, said of Reagan:  "He was just a figure of towering strength, of course, and someone who spoke so strongly and so clearly about the pressures of liberty, about the responsibilities of liberty and freedom."

The Reagan Revolution

At 69, Reagan was the oldest man ever elected president when he was chosen on Nov. 4, 1980, by an unexpectedly large margin over incumbent Democrat Carter.

Ascending to the presidency on a pledge to restore "the great, confident roar of American progress and growth and optimism," Reagan — a former actor and two-term California governor — remade the Republican Party in his own image of fiscal and social conservatism.

He successfully implemented most of his campaign promises: reducing government bureaucracy and regulation, cutting taxes in favor of "trickle-down, or supply-side economics — which became known as Reaganomics (search) — and building a strong defense while fighting the spread of communism. These moves won him wide appeal and an even wider margin of victory in 1984, when he won the electoral votes of 49 states.

The role of president would prove to be more dramatic than any screen role Reagan had assumed in his pre-politics career in Hollywood. Just 69 days into his first term, Reagan was shot in Washington by John Hinckley, Jr. (search), but his quick and full recovery from the assassination attempt elevated him to new levels of national popularity.

Reagan was hawkish in foreign policy, staunchly committed to thwarting the spread of communism. His war on communism led to an escalation of Cold War rhetoric and defense spending that mushroomed the national debt and brought harsh criticism upon his administration. But the efforts eventually resulted in a series of high-level summit meetings with Gorbachev, arms reduction pacts with the Soviets and eventually the break-up of the Soviet Union. That success was dramatically symbolized by the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

"Reagan was a statesman who, despite all disagreements that existed between our countries at the time, displayed foresight and determination to meet our proposals halfway and change our relations for the better, stop the nuclear race, start scrapping nuclear weapons, and arrange normal relations between our countries," Gorbachev said Sunday.

Star Power

Born Feb. 6, 1911, in Tampico, Ill., Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and worked as a radio sportscaster in the Midwest before being discovered by a Hollywood agent and signed by Warner Bros. He made his acting debut in "Love Is in the Air" in 1937, made Air Force training films during World War II, and went on to make 52 movies. Reagan also served as a spokesman for the General Electric Company, hosted and acted on the General Electric Theater television series, and was also host of the television series, "Death Valley Days."

Reagan and his first wife, actress Jane Wyman, had two children, Maureen and Michael, before divorcing in 1948. He married actress Nancy Davis in 1952 and had two more children, Patricia and Ronald Prescott, who goes by Ron. Maureen Reagan died of cancer in 2001.

Reagan moved from acting into politics as a five-time president of the Screen Actors Guild. Originally a Democrat, Reagan's ideology shifted to the right as he sided with the government attack on the influence of communism in the entertainment world.

But it was a well-received televised speech on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater in 1964 that catapulted Reagan's political career from the sound stage to the world stage. Reagan was elected California governor in 1966 and again in 1970.  He made two failed attempts at the White House in 1968 and 1976 before his 1980 victory.

Known for his personal charm and talent, many of the foreign leaders with whom he met were said to have been more impressed with his star quality than his intellect.

"You could see it in the faces of the foreign leaders — Mitterand, Thatcher, even Gorbachev," a U.S. official who accompanied Reagan on many trips abroad was quoted as saying by Lou Cannon in his biography, "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime."

"They didn't pay much attention to what he was saying. Either they had heard it before, or they realized it was just talking points. But Reagan the man, the politician, fascinated them. It was almost as if they were saying, what does this man have that works so well for him? It was like they wanted to bottle it and take it home and use it themselves."

The question of whether the commander in chief had a harder-edged side behind closed doors was the subject of some speculation and even humor. In a "Saturday Night Live" skit in the late 1980s, the late comic Phil Hartman portrayed a Reagan who was gentle and grandfatherly to Oval Office visitors but, behind closed doors, transformed into a sharp-minded scowling dictator who barked orders to his advisers.

While he wasn't always cooperative with reporters, avoiding unwanted questions by feigning deafness as he approached a waiting helicopter, he maintained a genial relationship with the White House press corps, whose members nicknamed him the Gipper in reference to the character he portrayed in the film, "Knute Rockne, All American."

Reagan's approval rating remained high through his eight years in office, and Democrats struggled for years against the image of old-fashioned values, patriotism and hard work that Reagan fashioned for himself and his party.

As a tribute to Reagan's legacy, Congress and President Bill Clinton officially changed the name of Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in February 1998. And in 2003, former First Lady Nancy Reagan was on hand to christen the USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy's newest nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

But perhaps the image of Reagan that will be remembered most was his ability to unite the nation under the strength of his convictions, such as when he spoke to all Americans, and
specifically schoolchildren, in the wake of the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger:

"It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons," he said. "The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them."

Reagan is survived by his wife and three children.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.