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5,000 Visit Nixon Library, Honor Former First Lady : Memorial: Yorba Linda institution waives cost of admission as public lines up to visit Pat Nixon's grave.

June 28, 1993|DAVAN MAHARAJ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

YORBA LINDA — About 5,000 people flocked to the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace on Sunday as officials waived admission fees for the public on the day after the burial of former First Lady Pat Nixon.

Spokesman Kevin Cartwright said the library was host to 10 times the usual number of visitors on Sunday, noting that about 500 people lined up in front of the Nixon library even before the doors opened at 11 a.m.

A steady stream of visitors trekked in throughout the day, filling the library's parking lot and sending officials scurrying for additional volunteers to handle the crowd.

Many of the people who came to the library Sunday hoped to pay their last respects to a former first lady who, they said, epitomized caring and devotion. Others said they simply wanted to take the opportunity to visit the library--which usually charges $4.95 admission--as they paid their respects to Mrs. Nixon.

"She was a humble lady," said 43-year-old Fountain Valley resident Denise Rios, who brought along her two teen-age children to pay their respects. "She always stood by her husband and I always admired her for that."

Charles Kalil, a computer consultant from La Habra, said Mrs. Nixon was the "epitome of what a wife is--strong, supportive, yet she had a mind of her own."

Former President Nixon and family members returned to their East Coast homes Saturday, several hours after Mrs. Nixon was buried next to the small wood-frame home where her husband was born.

Mrs. Nixon died of lung cancer at the family's home in New Jersey Tuesday. She was 81.

At the Nixon library, visitors crowded hallways that were lined with dozens of floral tributes to Mrs. Nixon. Among the bouquets were a red carnation display sent by the King of Morocco, a large bouquet of white Casablanca lilies sent by former President Ronald Reagan and former First Lady Nancy Reagan, and another floral arrangement in the shape of a white cross brought Saturday by Bob Hope and his wife, Dolores.

"Pat Nixon would have loved this," Cartwright said, gesturing to the dozens of people in the library's lobby. "She loved people. She was the one who opened up the White House to the public in 1973 . . . and that is now a White House tradition. This is a great way of saying goodby to her."

The visitors walked by Mrs. Nixon's grave, alongside a rose garden. Others gathered in the lobby area to watch a "Tribute to Pat," a 10-minute film of highlights of her life with the President, narrated by Jimmy Stewart. Scores more filed through the "Pat Nixon, Ambassador of Goodwill" room.

The library, which also will waive its admission fees today and Tuesday, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.

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