Very recently in fact, the subject of longest-living first ladies came up in conversation. Mindful of another birthday this summer, I realized it was time right about now to check the number of calendar days and see if the title of “second longest-living first lady” had changed hands.
Then came the news, before I completed that check, that Nancy Reagan passed away. Already well aware she was 94, or rather 94 1/2, the question for me remained as to the lifetime ranking with which she departed. After all, Lady Bird Johnson died in 2007 at age 94, or rather 94 1/2, while Mrs. Reagan was to turn 95 in July. Which one of these two long-living presidential wives lived the greater number of days, remained for me to investigate.
The answer of course came quickly and easily. Nancy Reagan was, and is, the second longest-living first lady in U.S. history, though not by much. Only in late January of this year, merely six weeks ago, did the length of her life surpass that of Lady Bird’s. As such, the perhaps obscure title did in fact change hands, as I had before today suspected.
Naturally I speak only of “second longest-living,” as the number one spot in this regard was not about to be overtaken any time soon. The longest living first lady has remained the same for more than 40 years now, as Mrs. Reagan was just beginning to close in on what still would have been a significant span of time. Now with her passing, it will be at least another seven years before another first lady breaks the record of life longevity.
In any event, my penchant for numerical presidential trivia aside, Nancy Reagan lived one long and complete life. In the Hollywood sense, she joins Abe Vigoda and George Kennedy in what’s shaping up early on to be a year of “senior loss.” I’ve always fondly recalled introducing myself to the first lady at a Christmas party in 2003, myself red-blazer clad of course. This personal memory stands out clearly in my mind today, polite as she proved herself. RIP Mrs. Reagan.