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Reagan Museum Visitors Honor a Singular Legacy

Celebration: Hundreds turn out for the 10th anniversary of the actor-turned-statesman's library.


Leaning on a cane, 85-year-old Dan McEnery smiled as he stared at a movie poster showing a young Ronald Reagan embracing Bonzo, the 40th president's one-time chimp sidekick during his acting days.

For many, the enduring image of Reagan is of a rancher and a conservative who despised communism, loved jelly beans and went by the nickname "Dutch."

For McEnery, Reagan, now 90 and living in seclusion battling Alzheimer's disease, will always be that of a dapper actor from Illinois who finessed people with charm and wit.

"He did play the Gipper and he played that well, and it served him well his whole life," the Thousand Oaks resident said as he stood with his friend Patrick O'Brien at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near Simi Valley.

The two were among several hundred visitors who made their way through a persistent drizzle Sunday to celebrate the hilltop library's 10th anniversary.

Visitors viewed a world-class collection of art and presidential memorabilia, and also shared memories of Reagan's acting career and administration.

In the museum's Spanish-style courtyard, a teenage fife and drum corps--wearing Revolutionary War-style uniforms--performed patriotic music.

Texan John Reynolds, 81, moved slowly toward a glass case containing dozens of Reagan's worn cowboy boots, hats and saddles from when he lived at a sprawling Santa Barbara ranch.

Reynolds, who traveled to the festivities with his wife, Orleanne, said that besides loving horses and ranches himself, he admired Reagan for his sense of style and purpose.

"He wasn't so in-your-face like people are today. I liked that about him," Reynolds said. "I grew up in a Democrat family, but he changed my way of life."

Outside the museum's main entrance, Azzam Alwash posed his two young daughters on both sides of a large statue of a smiling Reagan.

Although Alwash said he is not a big Reagan fan, he wanted a picture of his children as a keepsake.

"We're trying to instill what America means," said Alwash, a Long Beach engineer and Iraq native who moved to the United States 22 years ago. "It's been 10 years since [the museum] opened, so we thought it would be a good occasion to come."

The museum has exhibits and collages that trace the history of Reagan from his career in Hollywood to his political legacy as the governor of California and a two-term president.

Through mid-January, the center will also have on display historical documents relating to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, as well as portraits of other presidents.

While library guests were soaking up history, Ventura County law enforcement agencies were busy responding to about a dozen rain-related fender-benders.

The most serious crash occurred about 12:30 p.m. when a motorcyclist slammed into the back of a tow truck on California 33 just north of Ojai. The California Highway Patrol had no further details except to say the road was jammed for a couple of hours.

A light drizzle fell throughout the county Sunday, dropping up to a tenth of an inch along the coast and in the mountains.

The National Weather Service in Oxnard was calling for partly cloudy skies for the remainder of the week with highs in the upper 70s and lows in the 50s.

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