- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 6, 2004

Area residents and elected officials yesterday remembered former President Ronald Reagan as a leader who restored American pride and “won the Cold War without firing a shot.”

“Reagan was real good for the country,” said Robert C. McKinney, 46, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who lives in Arlington. “After he took office, we in the military had more respect for the office of president.”

Col. McKinney and his wife, Tonja, a retired Air Force major, began their military careers in May 1980 while Jimmy Carter was president.

“Reagan was the right man at the right time,” Col. McKinney said. “We had just emerged from Watergate and a hostage crisis, and we were still fighting the Cold War. Reagan found something in the American spirit that said, ‘Our way of life is worth fighting for.’”

Mr. Reagan, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, died of pneumonia Saturday at his home in California. He was 93.

Former Virginia Delegate Paul C. Harris, the first black Republican elected to the General Assembly in modern times, remembered Mr. Reagan’s strong and positive character.

“This is a painfully emotional time for me. I became a Republican because of Ronald Reagan,” said Mr. Harris, who represented Albemarle County. “His wisdom was so clear, his message was so hopeful, his character so positive that it could pierce through the pessimism and negativity and influence a kid growing up in the projects.”

A group of about 50 people held a candlelight memorial for Mr. Reagan last night at Lafayette Park near the White House. Some of them traveled from as far as Pennsylvania to pay their respects.

“I loved him. He was my hero,” said Joseph Casper, 43, of Alexandria.

“History will be his legacy,” said Mychal Massie, of northeastern Pennsylvania. “He put America in remembrance of her greatness.”

A family spokeswoman said Mr. Reagan’s casket will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday evening through Thursday. Mr. Reagan’s funeral will take place Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Washington National Cathedral in Northwest.

Police officials said yesterday they have begun planning for the events.

“We’re working in conjunction with other agencies to provide escorts for dignitaries and traffic posts along the route,” said Dwight Pettiford, acting chief of the U.S. Park Police. “That’s the major component of what we’re doing. I expect this will be one of the largest events in Washington for some time.”

Local elected officials remembered Mr. Reagan as “the great communicator” and a “modern-day philosophical hero.”

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., speaking from Normandy, France, where he was observing the 60th anniversary of D-Day, described Mr. Reagan as a role model for young Republicans in Congress in the 1990s.

“He served to remind us [of] a very poignant lesson: that freedom isn’t free, and the price of weakness, particularly in a democracy, is to invite danger and war,” Mr. Ehrlich said.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, said Mr. Reagan “will be remembered for his strong convictions, his unfailing optimism and his deep and abiding patriotism.”

Miss Mikulski, whose father also died from Alzheimer’s disease, said she knows how difficult it is when a loved one suffers from the ailment. “It is a challenge that Nancy Reagan has met with grace, dignity and dedication,” Miss Mikulski said. “Her courage is a model for the nation.”

Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, Maryland Republican, said the nation had “lost one of our greatest leaders and voices for world peace and freedom.”

“President Reagan had a rare quality that brought people together and made our nation believe in itself,” Mr. Gilchrest said. “I was honored to have met with President Reagan during his final year in the White House, and I will continue to model my public service after his fine example.”

Tears were shed in Virginia, a state Mr. Reagan visited often as president. The most notable occasion was in 1983, when he was the host of the Summit of Industrialized Nations in Williamsburg. The gathering brought the leaders of the United States, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain and Canada to the Colonial capital.

On Saturday, Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, was addressing supporters at a fund-raiser when state Republican Party Chairman Kate Obenshain Griffin passed him a note. Tears spilled as he read it. He broke the news to the crowd, then asked for a moment of silence.

“Although we have lost President Reagan in body … his indomitable spirit of optimism and trust in the goodness of free men and women will be with us for generations,” Mr. Allen said.

“Ronald Reagan’s determination and strength truly changed our nation and our world for the better. There are millions of people around the globe who are living in freedom today because Ronald Reagan had the courage to stand up against oppression and communism when others lacked the fortitude to do so.”

Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III was entertaining about 200 Republicans at his home after the state party convention Saturday when the news of Mr. Reagan’s death arrived.

“He won the Cold War without firing a shot. He brought good, conservative principles to governance, which was good for Americans everywhere,” Mr. Gilmore said.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat who on Saturday was on a trade mission to China, praised the optimism and confidence Mr. Reagan brought a beleaguered nation in the 1980s. Mr. Warner also praised the dignity and grace with which Mr. Reagan and his family faced Alzheimer’s disease.

“Former President Reagan was a towering figure in America’s political life, inspiring optimism and confidence at a difficult time in our history and projecting a strength that helped hasten an end to the Cold War,” Mr. Warner said.

• This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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