America has lost a great leader in Ronald Reagan, and we've also lost an incredibly nice man.
At a private 90th birthday party for Bob Hope that his wife, Dolores, hosted in the backyard of their home, I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Reagan. But not the way I had planned.
It was an amazing party. Dolores had created a replica of Bob's hometown, complete with bakery, ice cream shop, candy store, and more. As you can imagine, the guest list was pretty impressive and included such notables as Jimmy Stewart, Cesar Romero General Westmoreland, and several former presidents.
My father was a Democrat and my mother was a Republican, and they both had voted for Mr. Reagan in each of his elections. When I noticed that Mr. Reagan was at the party, I really wanted to get my picture taken with him. So, I told my husband that if I ever got close enough that it actually "looked" like we were talking, that he should snap the picture. Unfortunately, it seemed as if a lot of other people at the party had the same idea and I could never get close enough. That is until...
They gave the call for dinner. As my husband and I made our way to the big white tent where dinner was to be served, I happened to notice that we were walking right behind Ronald Reagan. I usually don't do this sort of thing, but somehow I got up the courage to ask Mr. Reagan if he would mind taking his picture with me. He was so gracious and happily agreed to pose with me.
It was starting to get dark by now, but it was no problem because our camera had a flash. So my husband readied the camera, Mr. Reagan and I struck a pose and smiled, my husband snapped the shot, but the flash didn't go off.
Disappointed, I thanked Mr. Reagan, and then expected him to walk on to the tent. But he didn't. He asked if I'd like to try it again. I couldn't believe it. He was giving both me and my camera a reprieve. So once again we posed, once again we smiled, and once again, the flash didn't go off!
I thanked him for his incredible patience, but this time he had to move on to the dinner area. When I dropped off the film to be developed, I prayed that something, anything would show up in the print. But nothing did. It was just a black negative. But I got it enlarged and framed it and hung it on my wall, because I know it's me and Ronald Reagan!
Now, the topper to that story is that I was speaking at a banquet some time later and happened to tell about my missed opportunity with Ronald Reagan. Afterwards,a man came up to me and asked if I had ever gotten that picture. I said, "No. I had my two chances and I blew it." He said, "Maybe I can help." Then he handed me his card. It was Michael Reagan, the president's son! That next week I received a call from Ronald Reagan's office inviting me to bring my family down and have our pictures taken with Mr. Reagan by their professional
photographer! They took a picture of me with him, my husband with him, each one of my kids with him, then all of us together with him.
Needless to say, those pictures turned out a whole lot better than the picture I was trying to take with my little instamatic!
Mr. Reagan was just as gracious at his office as he had been at Bob's birthday party, too. He was warm and friendly, and chatted with my husband and I and our sons, showing off a gift that a member of Congress had given him. It was a wood carving, and depending on which way you turned the moveable wooden blocks, he could display three answers to whoever he happened to be meeting with: "Yes," "No," or "Scram."
As American mourns the loss of this courageous leader, gifted communicator, and steadfast patriot, thanks for letting me share my memory of him, too.
He was certainly all of the things that people are saying about him in their moving tributes.
But he was also a very nice man, who even gave reprieves to broken cameras.