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President Reagan’s former chief of staff remembers Nancy Reagan

·Senior Writer
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When Ken Duberstein, President Ronald Reagan’s final chief of staff, heard about Nancy Reagan’s death, he immediately recalled the conversations he had with the former first lady who always “loved to gossip.”

“My first thought was, ‘She’s back with her Ronnie,’” Duberstein told Yahoo News in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. “And, boy, is she catching him up on everything that’s going on.”

Duberstein, who served as White House chief of staff from 1988 to 1989, said the bond between the president and first lady was even stronger than it appeared.

“Nancy Reagan and President Reagan had an incredible partnership,” Duberstein said. “And more than that, they had a true love affair. She was better when he was in the room, and he was better when she was in the room.”

“They had great pillow talk,” he continued. “She was fiercely loyal: you didn’t cross her, and you didn’t cross him. And yet she brought an elegance to the White House.”

SLIDESHOW – Nancy Reagan: A look back >>>

Nancy Reagan died from congestive heart failure, her office said Sunday. She was 94.

Duberstein, now 71, recalled the first lady’s “Just Say No” campaign against drug abuse, her contribution to stem cell research and her ability to leverage her Hollywood connections.

“She convinced Elizabeth Taylor to talk to President Reagan about AIDS,” Duberstein said. “She was a major player, not only as first lady but also as first partner.”

Duberstein also recalled a surprise birthday gift he helped Nancy deliver to the president.

“The last time President Reagan celebrated his birthday in the White House, we asked the composer Marvin Hamlisch to write a march for him,” Duberstein said. “It was played for the first time by the Marine Corps Band in the State Dining room as a surprise and again on his walk toward Marine One. And she was so proud.”

Slideshow: Saying goodbye to Nancy Reagan >>>

(Cover tile photo: Ronald Reagan Presidental Library/Getty Images)

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