Congressman Gallegly, area residents mourn the death of President Ronald Reagan at 93

June 09, 2004
Santa Paula News

Americans reflected on former President Ronald Reagan, who died Saturday at age 93 at his Bel Air home after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesAmericans reflected on former President Ronald Reagan, who died Saturday at age 93 at his Bel Air home after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s.Reagan will be buried at the Reagan Presidential Library Friday on a knoll over looking a wide expanse of the valley.Reagan will be remembered as one of America’s greatest presidents, restoring pride and optimism to America and winning the Cold War, said Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties).Simi Valley is Congressman Gallegly’s hometown and the home of the Presidential Library bearing Reagan’s name.Reagan “laid the groundwork for the prosperity we continue to enjoy today, even as we fight a war against terrorists. He won the Cold War without firing a shot. Instead, he built up the U.S. military and forced the Soviet Union to negotiate for peace. He called on Soviet President Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, and Gorbachev complied,” Congressman Gallegly noted. “As a freshman Congressman in the final years of his presidency, I was blessed to be a part of his vision for America.”One of the “highlights of my service with President Reagan was flying over Simi Valley in Air Force One and pointing out the window to the oak-dotted hill where his library was to be built, before he had had even set foot on the site. Our country has lost a great American today. We are better for having known him.”As California Governor, Reagan appointed Justice Edwin Beach to the Superior Court in 1968 and then to the Appeal Court of Appeal in 1973 where Beach served 13 years.Beach first met the future president at a Fillmore-based Republican function in the early 1950s.“I even served on a Pro Tem basis on the State Supreme Court when they needed a body badly,” said Beach.Upon Beach’s retirement in 1986, then-President Reagan “sent me a very kind note and wrote that he thought he made a very good appointment. . .I always cherished that note from him. I feel such gratitude. I was always grateful to him, always admired him. Reagan was one of my heroes.”It was Reagan’s sincerity and honesty that especially impressed Beach.
“I honestly don’t think he had a corrupt bone in his body, although some of his underlings got the better of him (such as the Iran-Contra scandal), but Reagan was a honest guy.”Like President Franklin Roosevelt, Reagan was “very popular, appealed to both sides of the aisle in Congress at the time you needed a leader. Reagan was very much a fan of FDR.”Reagan’s title of the Great Communicator was not an overstatement: “He said the right things in a way that you knew he was sincere about, he got his message across very well,” said Beach, who admired Reagan’s ability to “express things in a plain, ordinary way that people understood. He had a lot of charisma but not disingenuous or fake: what you saw with Reagan was what you got. He was an excellent president and I owe him a debt of gratitude.”Nils Rueckert, Past President of the Santa Paula Rotary Club, has been a Reagan Library docent for more than two years.Rueckert was notified Sunday that all docents would meet at 8 a.m. Monday for duty related to Reagan lying in repose at the library for two days before being flown to Washington for the national funeral.Reagan will be returned to the library on Friday for his sunset burial.Rueckert never met Reagan but prizes the times he saw The Gipper in person.In December 1982, when Reagan was the principal speaker at the re-commissioning of the USS New Jersey, Rueckert and his family managed to get close to Reagan’s limo. “He saw our boys standing there and gave a wave and said ‘Hi boys!’ They’ve never forgotten that.”Among Rueckert’s cherished possessions is a poster with the famous photograph of a Stetson-wearing Reagan.Rueckert acquired the poster the night Reagan won his first bid for the White House. “I went down to the campaign headquarters in Camarillo hoping to pick one up and got the last poster. . .it was a real thrill of my life.”Overall, Rueckert noted, “I just had a tremendous amount of respect and admiration of what Reagan stood for. It’s been a real honor to be a library docent.”Reagan’s legacy is that “brought back pride to Americans. We needed a big morale boost in the 1980s when things weren’t going well. Reagan was a great icon of the 20th Century. . .it’s going to be different at the library now, somber and sad for all of us.”

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