Sometimes a story grabs hold of you and won’t let go. President Reagan’s valiant fight against Alzheimer’s disease is in that category for me. I wasn’t a fan of Reagan’s policies, but there was something about the man, and the way he played the role of a lifetime. A visitor to his Century City office after he left the White House told the story of reminding Reagan that he was once President, and he asked, “How’d I do?”
Newsweek did a cover story on “the long goodbye” in the fall of 1995 when Reagan was still in the earlier stages of the disease that would take his life a decade later, in 2004. During the course of my reporting the story, Mrs. Reagan told me that one of the things that gave her husband pleasure was teaching the newest addition to the family how to swim in the heated pool at their Bel-Air home.
“Rita is a real ‘water baby,’ thanks to our pool and my husband,” Mrs. Reagan wrote in a written response to questions, describing then 10-year-old Rita Mirembe Revell, the child that her stepdaughter, Maureen Reagan, and her husband Dennis Revell, had adopted from Uganda. Newsweek asked for photos. We didn’t get them, but I always wondered what happened to Rita.