'He Enjoyed Just Being There with Her': Inside Nancy and Ronald Reagan's Sweet and Long-lasting Romance

The First Lady from 1981 to 1989 died on Sunday

Photo: Ronald Reagan Presidental Library/Getty

Nancy and Ronald Reagan had what some call “the greatest love affair in the history of the American Presidency.”

Married for 52 years, the only thing separating them was Ronald’s death in 2004.

Nearly twelve years later, Nancy also died – on Sunday at the age of 94 from congestive heart failure.

The couple, who lived in the White House for 8 years, were rarely seen walking together without holding hands, Sheila Tate, the former First Lady’s press secretary told PEOPLE in 1996.

Although his presidency came during a critical period of American history, he always made time for his First Lady.

“Absolutely the first thing he did every night when he came upstairs to the residence was talk to Nancy,” Tate said. “He enjoyed just being with her.”

The movie stars discreetly wed in 1952 at the Little Brown Church near L.A. with only two witnesses at their side – actor William Holden and his wife, Ardis.

“You can’t be around them for half an hour and not recognize the absolutely genuine total concern each has for the other,” their friend Charlton Heston once told PEOPLE.

They were as much playful as they were committed and never forgot about the romance.

Ron left love notes on Nancy’s desk, often signing them I.T.W.W.W., “as in ‘I love you more than anything in the whole wide world'” Nancy would say.

And on her birthday he sent flowers to her mother – “to thank her for giving birth” to his wife.

“They never took each other for granted,” Elaine Crispen, who succeeded Tate as Nancy’s press secretary told PEOPLE. “They never stopped courting.”

The couple eventually had two children together – Patti, now 63, and Ron, now 57.

Nancy will be buried at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, next to Ronald.

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