Obama orders flags at half-staff for Nancy Reagan

Frankie Taggart

Los Angeles (AFP) - US President Barack Obama ordered flags lowered to half-staff Monday at the White House and all federal buildings as the funeral arrangements for former first lady Nancy Reagan were announced.

Reagan, who died Sunday at age 94, will be buried in a private ceremony at 11:00 am (1900 GMT) on Friday beside her husband, former president Ronald Reagan, at his presidential library overlooking Simi Valley, California.

She will "lie in repose" on Wednesday and Thursday at the presidential library and members of the public will be able to pay their respects at that time, the library said.

"As first lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan served the people of this great nation with grace and humility," a spokeswoman for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation said in a statement.

"She has been an inspiration to all of us who worked for her at the (foundation) and she will be deeply missed. The Reagan family, our foundation and this country have lost a treasured soul."

A fierce protector of her husband and his political legacy, Reagan had outsize influence during her White House years from 1981 to 1989.

The White House late Monday announced that Michelle Obama would attend the service.

"First Lady Michelle Obama will be attending Mrs. Reagan's funeral," a White House official said.

In a statement on Sunday, the president and first lady praised Reagan's "proud example" in a statement Sunday, saying she redefined the role of first lady.

Reagan, the 40th US president, suffered from Alzheimer's disease after leaving the White House and went into a long decline, cared for by his wife until his death in 2004.

- Love story -

The Obamas highlighted Nancy Reagan's advocacy "on behalf of millions of families going through the depleting, aching reality of Alzheimer's."

As a "mark of respect" for the former B-movie actress, Obama ordered that flags be flown at half-staff at federal buildings, military posts, US naval vessels and diplomatic missions until sunset of the day she is buried.

The presidential library has not announced who has been invited to the funeral but hundreds of guests including foreign heads of state and other assorted dignitaries are expected to attend.

A spokeswoman for the library said the ceremony would "most likely be televised."

"Invitations for the funeral will be going out immediately so in the next couple of days -- actually, starting tomorrow -- we'll notify the media who's coming, who's part of the program, who the pallbearers are, things of that nature."

Tributes continued to pour in for the former first lady, with many noting her steadfast dedication to her husband and to the country.

"This amazing First Lady, #NancyReagan. A leader who exuded warmth, grace & compassion," tweeted Oscar-winning "Walk the Line" actress Reese Witherspoon.

The Reagans wed in 1952 after Ronald divorced his first wife, actress Jane Wyman, beginning a marriage that has been described as a love story to rival any that the couple acted out on the silver screen.

The pair, who wrote passionate love letters to each other over the decades, had two children: Patti, born in 1952, and Ron, born in 1958.