Nancy Reagan was born in New York City and when she was six her mother, Edith, a stage actress, married Dr. Loyal Davis, a neurosurgeon. The doctor adopted Nancy and she grew up in Chicago. She later attended Smith College in Massachusetts, where she majored in theater.
Reagan was an actress when she met Ronald Reagan in the early 1950s, then an actor and president of the Screen Actors Guild, according to a White House bio.
They wed on March 4, 1952. Daughter Patti was born in October of that year and son Ron followed in 1958. Reagan already had a daughter, Maureen, and an adopted son, Michael, from his marriage to actress Jane Wyman.
Their marriage lasted 52 years, until Ronald Reagan's death in 2004.
While Ronald Reagan was governor of California from 1967 to 1975, Nancy Reagan worked with numerous charitable groups, and spent hours visiting veterans, the elderly, and the emotionally and physically handicapped.
When her husband became president of the Unite States, First Lady Reagan continued her interest in these groups continued, and arguably became best known for her "Just Say No" program fighting against drug abuse among youth.
When Ronald was shot in 1981 by a would-be assassin, Nancy rushed to his side immediately, and later endured his nearly decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
In recent years she broke with fellow Republicans in backing stem cell research as a way to possibly find a cure for Alzheimer's.
In announcing his Alzheimer's diagnosis in 1994, Reagan wrote, "I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience."
Ten years later, as his body lay in state in the U.S. Capitol, Mrs. Reagan caressed and gently kissed the flag-draped casket.