Former first lady Nancy Reagan died Sunday of congestive heart failure at the age of 94, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation announced.
Nancy Reagan married Ronald Reagan in 1952, before he left his screen acting career for politics, and served as first lady from 1981 until 1989, during his two terms in the White House.
She was perhaps best known for her “Just Say No” campaign against drug abuse, but she played an active role in many of her husband’s political efforts as well. She also spoke openly about surgery she had to fight breast cancer to encourage other women to get screened for the disease.
After Ronald Reagan left office and later announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Nancy Reagan became an advocate for increasing research into the degenerative brain disorder. In that effort she opposed limits on embryonic stem cell research backed by then-President George W. Bush.
Other public figures almost immediately began to express their sadness at her death.
“Nancy Reagan was totally devoted to President Reagan, and we take comfort that they will be reunited once more,” said former first lady Barbara Bush, the wife of Reagan’s vice president, George H. W. Bush. "George and I send our prayers and condolences to her family.”
Former President George W. Bush said in a statement that Nancy Reagan’s devotion to her husband was matched only by her devotion to the country.
“Her influence on the White House was complete and lasting,” he said.
President Obama and first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaInstagram taps former Michelle Obama, Clinton aide to lead communications Americans should get used to pop culture blending with politics Michelle responds to Barack with her own Valentine's tweet MORE wrote in a statement that they were fortunate to benefit from Nancy Reagan’s “proud example, and her warm and generous advice.”
“Our former First Lady redefined the role in her time here. Later, in her long goodbye with President Reagan, she became a voice on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer’s, and took on a new role, as advocate, on behalf of treatments that hold the potential and the promise to improve and save lives,” they added.
In a statement, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanImmigration hard-liners hold fire on ‘dreamers’ program THE MEMO: Trump's big immigration gamble Ryan on border: ‘We will get this done’ MORE (R-Wis.) said, "Ronald Reagan could not have accomplished everything that he did without his wife Nancy."
News of Nancy Reagan's death also drew reactions from both Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who said "she embodied what it means to represent America as First Lady," and his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.).
“As we celebrate her life and legacy as a partner, confidante and adviser to President Reagan, and as a leader and philanthropist in her own right, we should also honor her passing by reflecting on the progress we can make when our elected officials work together across the aisle, as the Reagan administration did on issues ranging from immigration to nuclear arms control, making our people more prosperous and our nation more secure," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.
Updated at 1:50 p.m.