In light of the sad news of Nancy Reagan’s passing, John Barletta released an exclusive statement to Young America’s Foundation. Barletta was President Reagan’s close friend, United States Secret Service protector, Reagan Ranch Board of Governors member, and the author of the book Riding with Reagan.

“My bond with Mrs. Reagan was sealed a few months after I began riding with President Reagan as part of his Secret Service detail. I could instantly see that the two of them were very much in love. Mrs. Reagan adored him. She learned to ride because she wanted to be with him. They were so completely devoted to each other that at times I felt like I was coming between them during our rides, but she also told me that my riding with the President made him happier, and, of course, that made her ecstatic.

When you visit Rancho del Cielo today, you still see the signs of their amazing love affair everywhere: Lake Lucky, where Ronald Reagan re-proposed to his bride on their 25th anniversary; the boulder along one of the trails where Ronald Reagan carved his and Nancy’s initials inside the outline of a heart in 1977; and her riding boots in the closet, a reminder of the joy they experienced riding at the Ranch during the Western White House years.

I saw her dedication to him first hand, especially in the final years. She never wanted to leave his side.

Now both President and Mrs. Reagan are gone, but their memories will remain in the hearts of millions. I was fortunate to know — and love — them both.”

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