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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 June, 2004, 20:47 GMT 21:47 UK
Americans mourn President Reagan
President Reagan gives a news conference at the White House,  March 1987
Reagan lived longer than any US president
Americans have been mourning former President Ronald Reagan as preparations begin in Washington for a state funeral to be held on Friday.

Hundreds of people gathered outside a funeral home in California, where Reagan's body currently rests.

Candlelight vigils were planned in several US cities on Sunday night.

Tributes have continued to pour in for the former US president who died on Saturday at the age of 93 after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

1911: Born in Tampico, Illinois
1937: Wins Hollywood contract
1966-74: Serves as governor of California
1981-89: Serves as 40th president of the US
Mar 1981: Survives an assassination attempt
1994: Reveals he has Alzheimer's Disease

Ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, said Reagan was a "great president" who was "instrumental in bringing about the end of the Cold War".

Reagan's body will be taken to his presidential library in Simi Valley on Monday, where it will lie in state before being flown to Washington on a US Air Force plane on Wednesday.

The coffin will be carried on a gun carriage in a sombre procession to the US Capitol where it will lie in state until the funeral, which will be held at the National Cathedral on Friday. Reagan will be the first president to lie in state since Lyndon B Johnson in 1973.

Reagan's body will then be flown back to California for a private sunset burial at the presidential library.

The funeral plans were made in 1981 in accordance with presidential protocol, and updated every year.

As the detailed plans were announced, the Reagan family issued a statement, saying they were "deeply touched by the outpouring of sympathy from across the country and around the world".

Americans pay tribute

Outside a little Santa Monica mortuary on Sunday, mourners set up a makeshift shrine to pay tribute to a president whose 1981-89 White House tenure was marked by the Cold War climax and the beginning of the end of Soviet communism.

Tributes of flowers and jelly beans are left outside the Santa Monica funeral home
Looking back, life under Reagan was pretty good
Joseph Kraft, US

"He made you feel safe and secure regardless of whether you voted for him or not," one man, John Circenis told Reuters news agency.

At Reagan's boyhood home in Dixon, Illinois, mourners left flowers, flags and packets of jelly beans at the foot of a life-sized statue of Reagan.

A candlelit vigil was being planned by mourners in Washington on Sunday evening, and in several other US cities.

Flags across the country were being flown at half-mast.

Decade of Alzheimer's

President George W Bush, who was in France for the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, said Reagan "left behind a nation he restored and a world he helped to save".

Reagan and Gorbachev
Cold War company: Reagan with ex-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher - seen by many as Reagan's ideological soulmate during the Cold War years - will be attending the funeral.

In November 1994, five years after leaving office, Reagan revealed that he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease, which destroys brain cells and causes memory loss.

He died with his beloved wife of 52 years, Nancy, and the couple's children Ron Reagan and Patti Davis at his bedside.

Mrs Reagan wrote in a Time magazine article released on Sunday that her husband was an "eternal optimist" who always prayed silently while travelling by aeroplane.

"I think his faith and comfort with himself accounts for that optimism," the former first lady wrote.

"Since he felt that everything happens for a reason, he never saw things darkly."

Reagan was the 40th president of the US, taking office at the age of 69, the oldest to do so. He lived longer than any US president.

Before entering politics he appeared in more than 50 Hollywood films. He described himself as the Errol Flynn of the B-movies.

The BBC's David Willis
"A week of national mourning is now underway"

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