Reagan’s Church Prays For Him, Office Overwhelmed By Well-Wishers
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Worshipers at former President Reagan’s church bowed their heads Sunday to pray for a ″healing hand″ to fight his Alzheimer’s disease, while messages wishing him well poured in from around the country.
″We are concerned and shocked to hear of his illness,″ the Rev. Paul Pierson said in leading parishioners at Bel Air Presbyterian Church.
One day after Reagan’s disclosure that he had been diagnosed with the incurable brain disease, the pastor praised him for making his condition public.
″It may help others seek help,″ Pierson said.
″We pray for your healing hand to slow the progress of this disease,″ he said in leading the prayer.
Reagan’s handwritten letter disclosing the disease was accompanied by a statement from five doctors. They said that while Reagan’s health was otherwise good, ″it is expected that as the years go on it will begin to deteriorate.″
Reagan, 83, and his wife, Nancy, didn’t attend Sunday services at their 2,000-member church overlooking the San Fernando Valley. They also were not at their Bel-Air estate, where TV cameras were set up outside the gate.
Reagan spokeswoman Cathy Busch said the Reagans were out of town and she wouldn’t disclose where.
Telephone lines to the Reagan offices were jammed and the staff left after a short time Sunday because they were unable to handle the volume.
″It’s unbelievable. The calls and faxes are flooding in. There’s too many to count. The outpouring is incredible,″ Busch said.
At the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, northwest of Los Angeles, visitors trickled into the museum.
″It’s sad, very sad,″ said library docent Michael Markese. The letter, in which the former president said he would stay active and enjoy life, was vintage Reagan, he said. ″He’s always been such an optimist.″
Between Sunday’s two morning services, Pierson stepped out briefly and told reporters: ″We care about him deeply. He seems fine. We just want to express our love for them and what they have done for the nation.″
Pierson said he was asked not to do any interviews, but wouldn’t say who made the request.
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible neurological disorder that destroys the brain’s memory cells. In addition to memory loss, symptoms include impairment of judgment, disorientation and personality change. Victims eventually need 24-hour care.
Among diseases, it is the fourth leading cause of death for adults after heart disease, cancer and strokes. Some 4 million Americans have the neurological disorder, and about 100,000 die every year.
Editor’s note: Mail for former President Ronald Reagan may be sent to 2121 Avenue of the Stars, 34th Floor, Los Angeles, Calif., 90067.