Former President Reagan's 91st birthday a subdued remembrance

Wednesday, February 6th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Former President Ronald Reagan turned 91 Wednesday with a subdued celebration at home.

The longest-living U.S. president, who recovered from a broken hip suffered in a fall in January 2001, has remained secluded at his Bel-Air home since announcing in 1994 he had Alzheimer's disease.

The disease has exacted its toll on the nation's 40th chief executive. ``He's doing as well as can be expected,'' chief of staff Joanne Drake said.

``It will be low-key, and there's a chocolate cake,'' Drake said about the birthday Reagan was spending with wife Nancy Reagan and daughter Patti Davis.

In Time magazine, Patti Davis wrote emotionally about her father, acknowledging his birthday: ``We will commemorate his birthday, speak of it, but the word 'happy' won't be put in front of it.''

Maureen Reagan, the daughter of the president and his first wife, Jane Wyman, died of cancer in August at age 60.

On Tuesday, son Michael Reagan accepted a Los Angeles County proclamation declaring Wednesday ``Ronald Reagan Day.'' And President Bush signed legislation Wednesday making Reagan's childhood home in Dixon, Ill., a federal historic site. The private Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home Foundation owns the house where Reagan lived in the early 1920s.

The new law authorizes the Interior Department to acquire the site from the foundation, which would continue managing and operating it.

At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, about 50 miles northwest of the Reagan home, there were cards, a cake, a book signing by Lou Cannon, author of ``President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime,'' and a Japanese tree-planting ceremony.

``We always consider his birthday a special day,'' library Director Duke Blackwood said.

The 20 cherry trees from Japan, courtesy of the America-Miyazaki Cherry Tree Association, ``represent peace and friendship,'' library spokeswoman Melissa Giller said.

On Oct. 11, Reagan eclipsed John Adams by living longer than any other U.S. president. Adams, who occupied the White House from 1797 to 1801, was born Oct. 30, 1735, and died July 4, 1826 _ a life of 33,119 days. Reagan was born Feb. 6, 1911.