'I Knew Him as Dad'
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Ronald Reagan's (search) children said farewell to their father on a hilltop overlooking California's Simi Valley in a private sunset service.
"You knew my father as president, as governor. Well, I knew him as Dad," said Michael Reagan, speaking with the mountains behind him and the sun slowly setting. "We would swim, and we would ride horses. Or we would just watch him cut firewood. We were in awe of our father."
After lying in state and receiving tribute from leaders across the world, Reagan returned home to California, where his family and close friends said their final goodbyes. Other than the minister, the only speakers at Reagan's final memorial service were his surviving children Patti Davis, Ron and Michael, who offered personal reminiscences of their father. A daughter, Maureen, died from cancer in 2001.
Patti Davis said, "My father never feared death. He never saw it as an ending." She then recalled how when she was a child, Reagan took time out of his busy day to officiate over the funeral services of a pet goldfish.
"He was the most plainly decent man you could ever hope to meet," said Ronald P. Reagan. He was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word: a gentle man."
He continued, "In his final letter to the American people, Dad wrote, 'I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.' This evening, he has arrived."
Among the 700 friends of Reagan who attended the California memorial service are Hollywood stars Tom Selleck, Bo Derek, and Frank Sinatra Jr.; former L.A. Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda; singer Wayne Newton; California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Gov. Pete Wilson.
"It seemed as if the heavens were weeping as we paid farewell to your servant Ronald Reagan," said Rev. Michael Wenning, the service officiator. "We have come from sea to shining sea to this soil that he loved so much and where his body will remain."
The Reagan family specifically asked that official Washington not attend the service. The only world leader — former or current — at the service will be former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (search), with whom Reagan worked arm in arm as they fought the Cold War.
"They've come home. It's as simple as that. Washington was a place where Reagan made great history, but it wasn't home," said Richard Norton Smith, former director of the Reagan Presidential Library (search).
Military pallbearers carried the casket past a slab of the Berlin Wall, which Reagan worked tirelessly to bring down. And a military band played Hail to the Chief one last time for Reagan.
When Reagan's children finished speaking, the casket was accompanied to the burial site by an Irish bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. The military gave its final tribute as an army bugler played Taps, soldiers gave a 21-gun salute and FA 18s flew overhead in a missing man formation.
The massive motorcade carrying Reagan the 25 miles from Point Mugu Naval Air Station (search) to his final resting place north of Los Angeles was greeted by thousands of Americans who lined the streets to say farewell. The mourners had traveled from as far away as Texas and Florida to wave goodbye to the Gipper.
"We just want to be a part of it, show our respect to the Reagan family," said onlooker Eric Philips.
The commander in chief who won the Cold War also received a farewell from servicemen at Point Mugu, where his casket arrived in California after the state funeral in Washington D.C.'s National Cathedral.
After waiting for hours, more than 2,500 flag-waving mourners met the president and his family at the base that Reagan often used as president while flying back and forth between Washington and his home. Many cheered as Nancy Reagan stepped off the presidential jet from Washington to head for the burial service. The facility honored Reagan with a 21-gun howitzer salute, and tributes from a Marine Corps band that included "Hail to the Chief."
The service for family and friends capped six days of mourning and nostalgic remembrance for Reagan, who died of pneumonia last Saturday at age 93 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease (search).
After the state funeral, Reagan's body was taken to Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Maryland and loaded aboard a presidential plane as a band played "Going Home." Bells tolled 40 times to honor America's 40th president, as his casket left the cathedral.
The Boeing 747 carrying Reagan flew over his boyhood home in Tampico, Illinois, and over the president's library, tipping its wings at both locations. In addition to his family, the former president was accompanied on the flight by Thatcher, entertainer Merv Griffin, former adviser Michael K. Deaver and others.
The most tender moments of the past week have come from Nancy Reagan, 82. Slow in step, yet keenly alert to every polished move in the week's remembrance, she shepherded the casket with quiet intensity, turning the most public of events into a series of private moments. She kissed it lightly at the Capitol Rotunda, where Reagan lay in state. She ran her hands slowly up and down the stripes of the flag and, leaning close, seemed to whisper something to her husband of 52 years.
Another moving moment occurred when Commander James Symonds of the U.S.S Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier got down on one knee and presented Mrs. Reagan with the flag that has draped her husband's casket.
Reagan himself picked the hill where he wanted to be buried. The hilltop has a spectacular view of the valley and on a clear day the Pacific Ocean can be seen. The internment is scheduled for later Friday night away from cameras.
The funeral in Washington was attended by current and former leaders from around the world, including all four of America's living presidents — Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. They praised Reagan his lifelong optimism, sense of humor and political accomplishments as thousands of mourners watched solemnly from packed pews.
"His politics had a freshness and optimism that won converts from every class and every nation — and ultimately from the very heart of the evil empire," said Thatcher in taped remarks presented at the funeral in Washington. Thatcher, who has given up public speaking after a series of small strokes, sat next to Mikhail Gorbachev, who led that Soviet "empire" and eventually became Reagan's friend.
In his eulogy, President Bush said, "Ronald Reagan belongs to the ages now, but we preferred it when he belonged to us."
Fox News' Peter Brownfeld and The Associated Press contributed to this report.