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Mrs. Reagan became an outspoken advocate for such stem-cell research, even though Republican President George W. Bush put limits on new federal funding shortly after taking office in 2001.

In 2009, the former first lady applauded President Obama’s executive order reversing the Bush policy. “We owe it to ourselves and our children to do everything in our power to find cures for these diseases,” Mrs. Reagan said at the time.

When Reagan, who was 83 when he made his fateful announcement in November 1994, he wrote that he was feeling “just fine.” But his last public speech had already occurred earlier that year, and his last public photograph was taken a few years later, at his 89th birthday celebration.

He died June 5, 2004, aged 93, from pneumonia, a common complication of Alzheimer's.

Over those 10 years, Mrs. Reagan and other family members occasionally talked about how Alzheimer's stole away their beloved husband and father. “The Great Communicator,” for instance, was strangely quiet at the dinner table or couldn’t remember jokes he had told for years.

In a 1996 speech to the Republican National Convention, Mrs. Reagan poignantly talked about “the terrible pain and loneliness that must be endured, as each day brings another reminder of this very long goodbye.”

A few years later, Mrs. Reagan sadly told ABC newscaster Diane Sawyer that “his days are pretty well-defined, I don’t have to plan anything.”

“Occasionally” the clouds part and her husband was like himself again, Mrs. Reagan told Ms. Sawyer.

“If it comes, it comes, and you are happy, grateful,” she said. But while she felt he always could tell how much she loved him, he only “sometimes” knew who she was.

“You come to realize more than ever that we’re all here for a certain space of time, and then it’s going to be over. And you better make this count,” Mrs. Reagan said.