Locals remember Reagan fondly, proudly

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Former president Ronald Reagan is remembered by locally and throughout the state as a strong leader who ended the Cold War and restored American pride. Reagan died Saturday at the age of 93.

"He was a uniter," said David Mortiz, of Slidell, La., formerly from Ironton. Mortiz, who is visiting family and friends in the area, said he voted for Reagan at least once and probably both times he ran for president. "He made us feel good about America. He had an air about him. he made everyone proud."

For many young Republicans, their first impression of national government was molded by Reagan's presidency.

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"I was never old enough to vote for Reagan," Republican Lawrence County Commissioner Jason Stephens said. "He was president when I was growing up. I can remember coming home from school the day he was shot. In school, we talked about nuclear war and we were scared of the Soviets. It was a different world then. Growing up, I knew the Republican party as Reagan's party."

Stephens said he most admires Reagan for his platform of lower taxes, less government, a strong national defense and his hard-line stance against communism.

"I was 8 when he was elected and that was in 1980 and by 1989, communism had fallen. I graduated from high school that year and I thought then 'wow, what an amazing year.'"

Like Stephens, GOP candidate for state representative Richard Holt said he was only a child when Reagan was president. Still, Reagan's larger-than-life image had an impact on him then and now.

"He was the person who inspired me to run for office and run as a Republican," Holt said.

He said the end of the Cold War will be one of Reagan's chief legacies.

"He was able to maneuver around Congress and the defense department and the Soviets to end the Cold War. And at the end of it he was waiting with open arms."

Holt said he was saddened and shocked to hear of

Reagan's death.

State leaders have also expressed sorrow at Reagan's passing.

"We all mourn the loss of an extraordinary leader who revived our spirits and restored our self-confidence as a nation,'' said Gov. Bob Taft, who ordered flags in Ohio to be flown at half-staff. "It's an opportunity for us all to be grateful for his leadership that came at a very important time when our nation was low with the Iranian hostage crisis and the economic problems that he inherited.''

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said he grew to know Reagan well while serving as Mayor of Cleveland.

"Ronald Reagan was a class act who had a compassionate heart and really cared about the American people,'' he said. "His candor about his Alzheimer's disease not only helped raise awareness of the disease, but it also lifted up Alzheimer's patients and their families in a way that hadn't happened before, enabling them then to also begin talking openly about the disease."

Reagan's legacy is being lauded on both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C.

"I am sad to hear that President Ronald Reagan has finally lost his battle with Alzheimer's," U.S. Congressman Ted Strickland said. "Just as he bravely faced down the Soviets throughout the 1980s, so too did he fight honorably against a disease which gradually took his life.

"Over his lifetime, he was described in many different ways including veteran, leader, statesman, gentleman and great communicator.

But he will most likely always be remembered for his quiet leadership, his jovial demeanor, and the strength of his character."

Strickland said that although Reagan's life has come to an end, his legacy will continue to influence our nation and the world for decades to come.

The funeral will be Friday at Washington National Cathedral, where President Bush will be among the speakers. The body will then be returned to Reagan's library in Simi Valley for a private burial service.