Anne Frances Robbins (nicknamed “Nancy”) was born on 6 July 1921 in New York City. Her parents separated soon after she was born and her mother, actress Edith Luckett, went on the road.
Nancy was reared by an aunt until 1929 when her mother left show business and married Dr Loyal Davis, a wealthy Chicago neurosurgeon. He gave Nancy his name and a socialite’s home.
Nancy majored in drama at Smith College and found stage work with the help of her mother’s connections. In 1949, MGM signed five-foot-four, doe-eyed brunette Nancy Davis to a movie contract.
She was cast mostly as loyal housewives and mothers. She had a key role in The Next Voice You Hear… (1950), an unusual drama about a family that hears God’s voice on the radio, and in Donovan’s Brain (1953) she played the wife of a mad scientist possessed by a disembodied, glowing brain.
She met Ronald Reagan in 1950 when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. They married two years later when she was 30.
Their daughter Patti was born in October of that year and son Ron followed in 1958.
Nancy was thrust into political life when her husband ran for governor in 1966. After Reagan was elected in 1980 to the first of two terms as president, Nancy brought grace and high style and good taste – some of it very expensive – to the White House.
In her days as First Lady, she was also well known for her anti-drug efforts and for the phrase, “Just Say No” which is how she blithely urged young people to respond when offered illegal substances.
Her toughest job came in the years after her husband left office and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
The couple stayed close to their Bel-Air home where Nancy protected her husband and advocated tirelessly on behalf of foundations fighting against his affliction.
The couple’s mutual devotion over 52 years of marriage was legendary. They were forever holding hands and she watched his political speeches with a look of steady adoration.
Nancy Reagan died at home in Los Angeles on Sunday 6 March 2016 of congestive heart failure. She was 94.