Nancy Reagan: An Inspiration to All

Former first lady Nancy Reagan speaks in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Wednesday, June 3, 2009, during a ceremony to unv
Former first lady Nancy Reagan speaks in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Wednesday, June 3, 2009, during a ceremony to unveil a statue of President Ronald Reagan. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

From my Hollywood days -- when the Reagans were often guests at our family home to later years when, as California's First Lady, she attended my husband Byron Janis' concert in Sacramento and later on during the Reagan administration -- Nancy has continued to be a presence in our lives.

In 1983, Byron was invited by the Reagans to perform at a state dinner. It was a major event honoring Byron and the 40th anniversary of his orchestral debut, the Emir of Bahrain, and the five crew members of the Challenger, including Sally Ride, the first woman astronaut.

The following year, Nancy so graciously hosted a lunch for the all the governors' wives at the White House at which Byron performed. After the program, she announced that he had been suffering from arthritis for 12 years and was now being made the Ambassador for The Arts for the Arthritis Foundation. Going public with his secret was terribly trying and painful at first for my husband, but Nancy's caring support and warmth made a most difficult moment quite tolerable and, in fact, liberating.

I feel that her example as, most importantly, a loving, strong, devoted wife and then as our country's First Lady, was and should be an inspiration to all. My husband and I will miss her, but we feel happy that she is now joined again with her soulmate and partner in life and in love.