The lady is dead, but charisma lives on.
An estimated 5,000 people filed past the mahogany casket of former first lady Thelma Catherine “Pat” Ryan Nixon after waiting for hours in the hot afternoon sun beating down on the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace.
Mrs. Nixon, 81 died of lung cancer at her home in Park Ridge, N.J., June 22.
Though most had never met Mrs. Nixon, all knew of her and loved her for her inner strength and gracious manner.
Gwen Becker of Yorba Linda, who said she knew Mrs. Nixon slightly, said, “she was a perfect lady, I must say.”
That sentiment was echoed by Jeanne Webb of Garden Grove.
“Pat handled everything gracefully and raised a perfect family.”
By the time the library doors opened, well-wishers formed a line more than two blocks long along the front of the library grounds.
Some wore Air Force uniforms. Others came in T-shirts and jeans. Some wore black. Some carried flowers, others brought cards.
All were received, as Mrs. Nixon undoubtedly would have wanted.
They came from Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano, Corona, Fullerton, Long Beach, Cypress, Placentia, Brea, Los Angeles, Pasadena and Whittier.
Eighty-year-old Anne Teta, dressed in a knitted cap, rode a series of buses from Pasadena to say farewell to her old acquaintance.
“I once met Pat at Whittier College in the 50's,” Teta said.
“Pat had been an honored guest at a function and I gave her some information about a teacher and she really appreciated that.”
Teta's return trip was easier. Moved by the woman's effort, library staffers decided a bus wasn't good enough.
They provided a car and a member of the city's newly formed Community Action Patrol chauffeured her right to her doorstep.
When Teta left, other lined up in her place.
Karen Danskin, a 17-year-old Yorba Linda resident, made her first visit to the library.
Barbara Pinge said she admired Mrs. Nixon for her loyalty to her husband and family.
Flowers and cards lined the reception counter. Some bore a simple address, “For the Nixon family,” or “Mr. Nixon.” One said “former President Mr. Richard Nixon and Family.”
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