RONALD REAGAN: 1911-2004: REAGONE; Star of Bedtime for Bonzo, 1951, Leader of Free World, Alzheimer's Victim. the President Is Dead
Byline: CHRIS McLAUGHLIN Political Editor
FORMER American President Ronald Reagan died yesterday at the age of 93 after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
The former Hollywood star, who dedicated his presidency to winning the Cold War, died at his California home, with his wife Nancy and family present at his bedside.
He and Margaret Thatcher became the Western world's most powerful and charismatic alliance as their political relationship was compared with the leading romantic roles of Clark Gable and Vivienne Leigh in the classic film Gone With the Wind.
The bosom-buddies will go down in history as the team which finally ended the global aspirations of the Soviet Union.
President George W. Bush, in France for today's D-Day commemorations described Reagan's death as "a sad day for America".
A statement issued from Downing Street said last night: "President Reagan will be remembered as a good friend of Britain."
And Baroness Thatcher last night hailed Mr Reagan as "a truly great American hero".
She added: "He will be missed not only by those who knew him and not only by the nation that he served so proudly and loved so deeply.
Conservative leader Michael Howard added: "President Reagan was one of the towering figures of our time."
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "The Queen is saddened by the news."
The former President was born as Ronald Wilson Reagan on February 6, 1911, to Nelle and John Reagan in Tampico, Illinois.
A B-movie star who became the 40th President and the oldest ever elected at the age of 69, also lived the longest.
In his two terms from 1981 to 1989 he survived an assassination attempt by drifter John Hinckley and delivered a line straight out of the movies: "Tell Nancy I forgot to duck."
But he presided over one of the most precarious times in world peace. A champion of the discredited "Star Wars" project, he was accused of taking the planet to the brink of nuclear war. And his right wing social policies and anti-union laws were criticised for tearing up the social fabric of American life.
And Mr Reagan's constant gaffes sometimes made the White House a laughing stock.
Rumours of his incapacity to work a full day, and propensity to fall asleep on the job, encouraged critics to suggest that he should not be in the Presidency.
But his relationship with Thatcher never faltered and the two appeared to strike up a chemistry which dominated the fight against Communism.
Fears over his health had been growing since he broke a hip in a fall in 2001. By late 2003, 10 years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Reagan was unable to speak coherently and he had lost most motor skills.
His inability to pay attention to White House discussions was accompanied by rumours that he allowed wife Nancy to run policy on the basis of advice from an astrologer pal. The former actor's bumbling in the last two years as President generated rumours that he had Alzheimer's while in office.
Many commentators remain convinced that the disease rendered Reagan little more than a grandfatherly figure whose wife, Nancy, wielded the real power.
The massive tax cuts of "Reaganomics" stimulated an under-performing US economy and led to an unprecedented period of economic prosperity. …