The late former WQED chief Lloyd Kaiser with then-first lady Nancy Reagan during her visit to Pittsburgh and the television station.
Former US first lady Nancy Reagan
During a campaign stop in Columbus, Ohio, in August 1980, Nancy Reagan visited a school for the developmentally disabled.
Nancy Reagan visited a school for the developmentally disabled during a campaign stop in Columbus, Ohio, in August 1980.
Princess Diana is accompanied by First Lady Nancy Reagan during a visit to a community center in Springfield, Va., during a 1985 visit to the United States with Prince Charles.
By Karen Kane / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh said he has fond recollections of the state dinners he attended as U.S. attorney general for President Ronald Reagan when he was “lucky enough to be seated next to [first lady Nancy Reagan].”
Speaking of Mrs. Reagan from his home in Ligonier on Sunday where he and his wife, Ginny, were hosting family, Mr. Thornburgh described Mrs. Reagan as “the personification of beauty and grace. She had a special knack for relating to people. She was not at all imperious about her status as the first lady of the United States.”
Mr. Thornburgh said that, even as she exuded beauty and grace, at the foundation of it all was a “backbone of steel.”
“She was an enormous help to her husband,” he said. “She always called him Ronnie. She had a backbone of steel. She said she would ‘never let Ronnie down.’ ”
Mr. Thornburgh said she was good at “reaching out to people across the spectrum” to help the people and causes that were important to her.
Jim Roddey, the former Allegheny County executive who retired last month as the chairman of the county’s Republican Committee, recalled how Mrs. Reagan made the anti-drug slogan “Just Say No” a contemporary catch-phrase.
In fact, it was her anti-drug campaign that brought her twice to Pittsburgh, in April 1983 and in September 1986, to WQED public television for the national “Chemical People” program and its sequel, respectively.
Mr. Roddey said he shook the first lady’s hand on several occasions at events but once had the opportunity to be seated at the same table during a Washington, D.C., luncheon in 1986 or 1987.
He said it was “grace” she exuded during the luncheon, an affair of a couple hundred for people who had worked in Ronald Reagan’s Republican presidential campaign.
“I just remember how gracious she was and how easy it was to talk to her,” Mr. Roddey said. “She was not hesitant to be a part of a group, talking about a variety of things — the drug problem, her husband, what it was like to live in the White House. Just general things you would talk about.
“She was very down to earth and very gracious and the epitome of what you would hope a first lady would be like.”
Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or at 724-772-9180.
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