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Week of: February 11, 2001

Valentines: Ronald and Nancy Reagan

by F.R. Duplantier

The greatest President of the 20th Century was also one of the most romantic and devoted husbands.

"Dear Mrs. Reagan," the letter begins. "And you are Mrs. Reagan because Mr. Reagan loves you with all his heart. Every time Mr. Reagan sees the evening star or blows out the birthday candles or gets the big end of the wishbone, he thinks the same wish -- a prayer really -- that so much happiness will go on and somehow be deserved by him.

"It is true sometimes that Mr. Reagan loses his temper and slams a door," the letter continues, in acknowledgment of one of the few rare spats in a marriage that has thrived for nearly 50 years. "But mad or glad, Mr. Reagan is head over heels in love with Mrs. Reagan and can't even imagine a world without her."

This is but one of many charmingly romantic letters written by Ronald Reagan to the wife he adores and collected by her in a new book called I Love You, Ronnie. Another letter, written shortly after Reagan's first inauguration, is addressed, "Dear First Lady. As President of the United States," Reagan declares, "it is my honor and privilege to cite you for service above and beyond the call of duty in that you have made one man (me) the most happy man in the world for 29 years.

"Beginning in 1951," Reagan reminisces, "Nancy Davis, seeing the plight of a lonely man who didn't know how lonely he really was, determined to rescue him from a completely empty life. He sits in the Oval Office, from which he can see . . . her window and feels warm all over just knowing she is there. . . ."

On February 14, 1977, in a letter whimsically addressed to St. Valentine himself, Ronald Reagan writes of a woman who has "two hearts -- her own and mine. I'm not complaining," he insists. "I gave her mine willingly, and like it right where it is. Her name is Nancy, but for some time now I've called her Mommie and don't believe I could change." Reagan implores St. Valentine to "whisper in her ear that someone loves her very much and more and more each day. Also tell her, this 'Someone' would run down like a clock without her, so she must always stay where she is."

How many husbands out there still write silly love notes to their wives the way "Ronnie" used to do, for special occasions and for no reason at all? That great and good man may have abandoned the practice in recent years as the ravages of Alzheimer's have taken their toll on his memory and imagination, but what's your excuse? Don't you love her anymore? Don't you remember how much you loved her when you first proposed and, to your amazement, she accepted? Are you afraid to show your feelings? Can you not find the words? Don't worry about that. Just think the thoughts and the words will come. Tell her how she took your breath away the first time you saw her and how she's the reason you're short of breath today. Dare to be corny and ask her to be your Valentine all over again.


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