Ronald Reagan 1911-2004

AMERICA mourned former President Ronald Reagan yesterday as preparations began in Washington for a state funeral for the man who won the Cold War and the hearts of countless Americans as the "Great Communicator".

The former Hollywood star, who also established close ties with Ireland, died with his family by his bedside at his Los Angeles residence on Saturday at the age of 93 following a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

The 40th president's body lay overnight at a mortuary near his Bel Air home. It is expected to be taken to his presidential library in the Simi Valley on Monday before being flown to Washington on Wednesday.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Mr Reagan will lie in state in the US Capitol before a funeral at the National Cathedral on Friday followed by a private sunset burial at the presidential library in California.

His passing was also mourned in Ballyporeen, the Tipperary village where the ex-President visited 20 years ago this weekend to trace his Irish roots.

President George W Bush, in France to mark the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, hailed Reagan as a "gallant leader in the cause of freedom".

The father of Soviet Perestroika reform, Mikhail Gorbachev, praised Mr Reagan, his partner on the world stage, as a great leader who dared to change the tide in relations between the Cold War superpowers.

Former British leader Margaret Thatcher the "Iron Lady" to Mr Reagan's warm "Great Communicator" called him a "truly great American hero".

The former president's death ended a long, painful last chapter in a close, 52-year marriage.

Just last month, Nancy Reagan made a rare speech in which she described her husband's last days suffering from Alzheimer's. "Ronnie's long journey has finally taken him to a distant place, where I can no longer reach him," she said.

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