SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Former President Ronald Reagan will be honored with five days of memorial services, culminating Friday with a funeral at the Washington National Cathedral and a sunset burial at his presidential library in California, Reagan's family announced yesterday.
President Bush will speak at the state funeral, the first for a former president in Washington since Lyndon B. Johnson's in 1973, said Reagan family spokeswoman Joanne Drake. Friday will be designated a national day of mourning.
Yesterday, the tidy lawn of the mortuary where Reagan's body was being prepared was covered with an array of small tributes to the nation's 40th president, who died Saturday of pneumonia at age 93. In addition to the flowers and flags, there were stuffed animals, balloons and handwritten signs.
"God bless you Ron and God Bless America," read one.
"Mr. President we thank you and we love you," read another.
Tom Michel brought his 3-year-old son, T.J., with him to place an American flag on the front lawn of the Kingsly & Gates Moeller Murphy funeral home.
He paused with his son in his arms and bowed his head.
"I just think he was a man who embodied the American spirit," Michel said, his voice breaking with emotion. "He made us feel good about America again."
In France, Bush heralded the late president as a "gallant leader in the cause of freedom." In Washington, Bush's aides said it was Reagan as much as another president named Bush who was the role model for this president, and they talked of a campaign in which Reagan would be at least an inspirational presence.
Sen. John Kerry, Bush's Democratic challenger, was no less warm in praising Reagan, with a speech and a tribute on his Web site. His campaign canceled five days of events, in what aides described as both a gesture of respect and a bow to the reality that the world would not pay much attention to Kerry this week.
At the funeral Friday, pallbearers will include former White House aide Michael Deaver and entertainer Merv Griffin. The Rev. Billy Graham was supposed to officiate at the service but cannot attend because he is in ill health. Instead, former Sen. John C. Danforth, recently named as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, will perform the service. Danforth, a Missouri Republican, is an Episcopal minister.
"Mrs. Reagan and her family are deeply touched by the outpouring of sympathy from across the country and around the world," Drake said. "As you can understand, the family is in deep mourning over the loss of a husband, a father, a grandfather and their hero."
Nancy Reagan, son Ron Reagan and daughter Patti Davis were at the bedside of the 93-year-old former president when he died Saturday at his home in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, Drake said. Michael Reagan arrived shortly after his father's death.
"It was a very, very private moment," said Drake, who worked for the former president for nearly 20 years.
While the family is deeply in grief, Drake said, "There is definitely a sense of relief that he is no longer suffering and has gone to a better place."
Reagan, who had suffered from Alzheimer's disease since the early 1990s, had been planning his memorial services since 1981, Drake said. The plans call for private services for Reagan's family and close friends as well as large public events -- including viewings of the closed casket in California and Washington and a procession to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday evening.
The memorials are expected to be the largest since President John F. Kennedy's in 1963.
Reagan will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda from Wednesday evening until Friday morning, and the public will be allowed inside. Only 29 men, including nine presidents before Reagan, have had that honor.
"President Reagan was a man of the people, and it was very important to him that people had the opportunity to pay their respects if they wanted," Drake said.
This morning, Reagan's body will be taken to his presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif. After a private ceremony for his family, his body will lie in the library's lobby.
On Wednesday morning, the body will be flown, along with Reagan's family, to Washington to begin a three-day state funeral that is rich in tradition from the days of Abraham Lincoln -- and planned to the minute.
At 5 p.m. the body will arrive at Andrews Air Force Base and be brought by motorcade to Washington. At 6 p.m., the procession will stop at the Ellipse at 1600 Constitution Ave. and -- in what many remember as the most poignant moment of Kennedy's funeral procession in November 1963 -- the casket will be transferred onto a horse-drawn caisson to be brought to the Capitol.
A single drummer with a black-covered drum will walk with the body as it is drawn up Constitution Avenue, just as in Kennedy's funeral.
After a state funeral ceremony in the Rotunda, Reagan's body will lie in state from 8:30 p.m. through Friday morning. More than 100,000 people are expected to pay their respects, the U.S. Capitol Police told the Associated Press yesterday.
On Friday, a motorcade will take the body to the National Cathedral for a national funeral.
Afterward, Reagan's body will be flown back to California, where a private interment service will take place on the library grounds.
He will be buried, as he had wished, at sunset, in a grove of oak trees along a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean -- a spot he selected before the library opened in 1991.
The memorial area is constructed in "the Western style he loved so much," Drake said. Reagan also selected an epitaph that will be made public Friday.
Drake said Reagan's family had been extremely touched by the great show of sympathy from around the world. Among those who had contacted Nancy Reagan to express their condolences were Bush; former Presidents George Bush and Gerald Ford; former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; actor Charlton Heston; and the ailing Graham, who called from his hospital bed.Copyright © 2015, CT Now