Heavy rains last Friday stopped him from making the long trip, so he got up very early last Saturday morning when it was still dark outside and drove the seven hours from Sacramento to Los Angeles to get to her home by noon. His car was old but reliable. But not today. Just as he drove into the driveway of Nancy Reagan's Bel-Air home, it sputtered. Steam and smoke blew out from under the hood. It prompted the Secret Service agents who still protected the former First Lady to rush out and check on the car.
Dennis Revell was there to see his longtime friend, Nancy Reagan. He came for regular visits over the years and this one wasn't any different. There were no urgent calls to please hurry because her health was failing. It wasn't. Revell enjoyed his frequent visits with Nancy. He said they were like therapy sessions. The two enjoyed long talks, even if he did most of the talking. She asked him questions ranging from politics to his dating life.
"She would ask a question and expect a detailed answer," Revell said. She just sat and nodded her head as she probed for more details.
Dennis Revell is head of a public affairs firm, Revell Communications. He is also the son-in-law of Nancy and Ronald Reagan through his marriage to his late wife, Maureen Reagan. In his final visit last Saturday, he told Nancy about his car. "In pure fashion, she said, 'It's Saturday. How are you going to get your car repaired?' This comes from a woman who hasn't driven a car in 45 years. We spent the next 10-15 minutes discussing how I was going to get the car fixed."
Revell got word of Nancy's passing the next morning when he was still in Los Angeles. He put out a statement that revealed a special relationship and bond between the two. It said they were always there for each other as their spouses battled their respective health challenges -- Alzheimer's for Ronald Reagan and cancer (malignant melanoma) for Maureen Reagan. As a public affairs executive, Revell could have capitalized on his closeness to the former First Family but chose not to.
"I've shunned the role of spokesperson for the Reagan family as much as others have sought it. I've done so, not out of indifference or timidity, but out of deep respect for President Reagan, Maureen and the rest of the family."
In her final hours, the 94-year-old former First Lady was surrounded by family, nurses and her favorite cookies before she peacefully passed away in her sleep. Revell brought her home made powdered sugar cookies that were her favorite. She called them nut balls and shared them with her doctors and the nurses who tended to her. They came to be her last treat.
"It was always something Nancy looked forward to. She loved chocolate chip cookies, but these were her favorites."
Revell was asked on my Sacramento radio station, KFBK, how she occupied her time after her husband died.
"She put her passion first and foremost in making sure that she left in place a lasting and appropriate legacy of his accomplishments of the library and his foundation."
Revell has returned to Sacramento. The radiator on the car has been fixed, but he will not be driving back down to LA to say his final goodbyes. He instead will fly to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley for Nancy Reagan's funeral. He thinks it's only fitting his last trek down interstate 5 be a memorable one.
"Our last conversation ws her being worried about me getting the car repaired," Revell said. "That is vintage Nancy Reagan."
Until her final moments, the former First Lady put others problems before her own.