Monday, June 7, 2004

Beloved leader left legacy here

Local residents share grief, memories of lost president

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Residents of Southwest Ohio on Sunday echoed the sentiments of gratitude and grief heard around the world for deceased U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the "Great Communicator" known for his optimistic outlook that rebuilt American pride, and his hard-edged foreign policies that toppled the Iron Curtain.

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In Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, the former president was on the minds of many after news broke Saturday of Reagan's death from pneumonia. He had battled Alzheimer's disease for the past decade.

Ned Haynes Jr. of Goshen Township and his fiancee, Kelly Horgan of Blue Ash, said they prayed for Reagan and his family during Mass at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in downtown Cincinnati.

"He renewed the way Americans look at ourselves, and he renewed our pride and patriotism in the United States," said Haynes, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1984 until 1993.

Haynes said Reagan deserves the thanks of the nation and the world for ending the Cold War and restoring faith in the then-beleaguered U.S. military.

"With the Vietnam War going on so soon before Reagan's presidency, morale was low and military standards were low," he said. "But Reagan fixed that. He was always trying to say positive things about America and about the military, and that makes a difference."

The Hamilton County Republican Party was expected today to announce plans for local remembrances.

"We definitely want to do something to remember President Reagan here in Hamilton County," said chairman Michael Barrett. "Local people remember him for the patriotic spirit he brought back to our country. This guy was able to do and say the right things to get our country back in shape."

It wasn't just the United States that gained from Reagan's tenure, said a French journalist visiting Cincinnati Sunday. It was democracy.

Anne Toulouse, a Washington, D.C., correspondent for Radio France International, was in Cincinnati Saturday for a story on Ohio's swing-state status in the presidential election when she learned of Reagan's death.

Toulouse said Europeans' impression of Reagan did a turnabout in his years as president, from a movie star who became president by accident, to a world leader who helped bring about the demise of Communism.

"It was such a huge thing in Europe to see the Iron Curtain falling," Toulouse said. "I never thought it would happen in my lifetime."

The European impression of Reagan started to turn after he gave a remarkable speech at the 40th anniversary of D-Day, in 1984, when he stood at the beaches of Normandy and described how Army Rangers had scaled cliffs and defeated enemy troops who were firing down on them.

Roses and flags sit at the Montgomery St. entrance to the Ronald Reagan Highway as a memorial to the former president.
(Sarah Conard photo)
"It appeared, little by little, that he had much more character than we first believed," Toulouse said. "European people are very attracted to a person with a big character. In Europe you have Churchill, you have De Gaulle. In America if you have two (recent) presidents with that charisma, that striking personality, it's Kennedy and it's Reagan."

Some local residents felt the same. At first they didn't take "The Gipper" seriously, but soon they grew to love him.

"At his first term, I thought that being a movie star he wouldn't be a good president," said Bert Hayes of Edgewood, Ky. "But he proved different."

Greg Hartmann, the Hamilton County clerk of courts and county chairman for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, said President George W. Bush tries to follow in the footsteps of President Reagan.

If Reagan were lucid in recent years, "he'd share President Bush's interest in promoting democracy around the world," Hartmann said. "Reagan did that with the Cold War, committing huge resources that ended up being money well spent."

Steve Trimble of Monfort Heights recently read Peggy Noonan's Reagan biography, When Character Was King, and counts himself a huge Reagan fan.

"The biggest thing I see lacking today that I liked about Reagan is his willingness to do what's best for the people instead of just what's best for their respective party," Trimble said. "Although he had very conservative views, he was open-minded to the views of others. He was the last president to be able to bring Republicans and Democrats together, and since then the country has been very divided.

"Ronald Reagan has a special place in my heart."



Special section: Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004