BEL AIR (CBSLA.com) — Roger Sandler who photographed the Reagans for decades spoke of his fond memories of the couple on Sunday.
Sandler’s connection to the Reagans goes back to their Sacramento years when their chief of staff asked him to chronicle the Reagans’ road to the White House.
“For the 1980 campaign and I did their campaign photography for all their brochures and their films and the like in 1984,” Sandler said.
He said he got to know them pretty well.
“Two very different people. Ronald Reagan was sweet and nice and a gentlemen’s gentleman,” he said.
Sandler shot pictures of them after their White House days as they settled back in Southern California.
“Mrs. Reagan was completely devoted to him and to his legacy,” he said.
Although very petite, he said she was strong and very protective of her husband.
“Tough, strong, loving,” he said of Nancy. “He was mostly the beneficiary of that.”
It was a Sunday late in 1998 that Mrs. Reagan asked that Sandler shoot photographs of the couple at their church in Bel Air.
“Mrs. Reagan let me know that they were going to church for the very last time. She thought that Ronnie, as she put it, the president, wouldn’t be able to venture out of their home again,” he said.
After the service, the couple came to an area that overlooks the San Fernando Valley, which was where Sandler took the final public pictures of the Reagans.
He said one thing really stood out in the photos.
Specifically, the couple’s hands. They weren’t gently holding hands. Rather, Mrs. Reagan had a firm grip on the president to steady him as Alzheimer’s disease took its toll.
“He had a bewildered look on his face. Didn’t quite know where he was and the like,” he recalled.
Afterwards, when Sandler shook the president’s hand, he stood there silently.
“And I looked over at Mrs. Reagan and there were tears going down her cheek,” he said.
With that, the Reagans left the public life to live their remaining years together privately.