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Maureen Reagan Called Valiant, Voice for Women

August 19, 2001|JANE E. ALLEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Maureen Reagan, the eldest child of the former president, was eulogized Saturday as a valiant, passionate and tireless fighter against Alzheimer's disease and melanoma, as well as a voice for women inside and outside the Republican Party.

An estimated 800 people attended the emotional three-hour funeral Mass, including her 87-year-old mother, actress Jane Wyman, and stepmother, former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Maureen Reagan died Aug. 8 at age 60 from melanoma.

Though former President Ronald Reagan could not attend because of his Alzheimer's, the service brought together family, friends, actors and state and national political leaders from both major parties, as well as the Secret Service agents who once protected her.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman expressed condolences on behalf of the Bush administration. She credited Maureen Reagan with blazing a path in politics for women, including Whitman herself.

"If one could harness the energy of Maureen Reagan, I can assure you California would never have another brownout," said the first female governor of New Jersey, drawing a laugh.

The service began with the husband of the deceased, Dennis Revell, and daughter Rita draping a white pall over the maple casket. Nancy Reagan placed a copy of the Gospels on it and Wyman laid a cross on the coffin.

The first eulogy came from actor David Hyde Pierce of the "Frasier" television show and a member of the national board of directors for the Alzheimer's Assn.

"Maureen took care of people," he said. "When cancer touched her life, she fought it, not only for herself but for everyone."

Sharon Davis, California's first lady, was one of several Democrats to speak.

"On this day, so many Americans, so many Californians, so many people around the world are mourning with you," she said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a close friend who has struggled with melanoma, thanked the activist for her efforts and compared her to her father.

"Like him, she was an idealist; she shared his optimism, his kindness," he said. "I'm indebted to Maureen for her work to find a cure."

The funeral also included prayers offered by Maureen Reagan's siblings: Michael Reagan, Patti Davis and Ron Reagan.

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, sent a videotape describing Maureen Reagan's diplomacy in Africa and her adoption of her daughter from his nation.

"She was a bridge between the countries," he said.

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