Families, mourners of all ages journey to honor Nancy Reagan

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SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) – Members of the public filed past Nancy Reagan’s coffin again on Thursday to pay their respects before the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is closed to prepare for the former first lady’s funeral.

By late morning a long line had formed in a parking lot where shuttles picked up people for the ride to the library.

More than 3,000 people came to the library in hill country northwest of Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Mourners have had sunny skies and balmy temperatures, but that was expected to change for Friday’s 11 a.m. funeral, which could see wet and windy weather.

The National Weather Service predicted partly cloudy skies in the morning, followed by rain and a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon with winds from 15 mph to 25 mph. The outdoor funeral area has been tented.

Nancy Reagan’s two children, Patti Davis and Ronald Prescott Reagan, will be among the speakers at the funeral, which will include choirs and a Marine Corps band.

Prominent attendees will include first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush. Former first ladies Rosalynn Carter and Hillary Clinton will also attend.

James A. Baker, who served in President Reagan’s administration, and former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw also will give remarks during the private ceremony officiated by the Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, vicar of Washington National Cathedral.

Wednesday’s public viewing drew people from long distances.

Roy Dillard drove more than 100 miles with two of his daughters and his 3-year-old great-granddaughter to pay their respects to Nancy Reagan and honor the legacy of what he called “the greatest president of my lifetime.”

Dillard’s daughter Bobbie Eldridge said she admired how the first lady “stood by her man, the great and beautiful love that they had and how she became his caretaker” in old age. She and her 80-year-old father drove from Bakersfield to the library in Simi Valley.

Retired teacher Mary Ellen Gruendyke drove nearly as far from her Riverside home, appearing with a colorful Ronald Reagan souvenir scarf around her neck.

“Ronald Reagan was one of the best presidents we’ve ever had,” Gruendyke said, “and I admired them both as a couple for their love story and the support they showed to each other.”

In the library lobby, mourners walked quietly in a circle around the casket covered in white roses and peonies – Nancy Reagan’s favorite flower.

Wednesday began at a Santa Monica funeral home with a 45-mile motorcade that carried Nancy Reagan’s casket to the library, where a military honor guard carried the casket between two identical towering portraits of the former first lady wearing a long, red dress and then past a gurgling courtyard fountain.

The casket was placed behind a bronze statue of a smiling Ronald Reagan holding a cowboy hat.

Nancy Reagan died Sunday at 94. She will be laid to rest just inches from the president in the library’s hillside tomb, facing west toward the Pacific Ocean.

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