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Public Files Past Nixon Grave

April 29, 1994

YORBA LINDA, Calif. (AP) _ Irene Porter stood before Richard Nixon’s shiny black gravestone, made the sign of the cross and said a silent prayer.

″It’s just something beautiful to be a part of history. I really believe that,″ the 71-year-old resident of Nixon’s hometown said Thursday. ″More than anything I was here for my brothers, who were all veterans.″

Porter and hundreds of other people filed past the grave at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace the day after America’s 37th president was buried.

Most snapped photos of the grave, which was surrounded by spectacular arrangements of snapdragons, lilies and gladiolas. Others stood solemnly for a moment before moving on.

Eight-year-old twins Carl and Lois Harlow were first in line when the library’s doors opened. The family got up at 5 a.m. for the 60-mile drive from Ventura County.

The Harlows were silent as they gazed at the gravestone with its inscription: ″The Greatest Honor History Can Bestow is the Title of Peacemaker.″

″It’s cool,″ said Carl, fidgety from waiting.

His father was more contemplative.

″Nixon’s life is his memorial,″ Bob Harlow said, holding his wife’s hand. ″Everyone has a marker, but it’s your legacy that lives on.″

The clouds that threatened to drench mourners at Wednesday’s funeral lifted Thursday, lightening the somber atmosphere. Mothers pushed children in strollers and dads wore Nixon baseball caps.

Workers dismantled bleachers and television crews took down equipment used to broadcast the funeral service around the world.

Among those who visited the grave, which lies in a quiet rose garden under a sycamore tree near the grave of his wife Pat, was his younger brother, Edward.

Edward Nixon, 63, stood silently with his arms around his daughter, Beth, for a minute before breaking into tears. He rushed past reporters to seek privacy inside the tidy clapboard house that was Nixon’s boyhood home.

Another relative, cousin Charles Milhous, 82, said the pomp and circumstance of the previous two days helped heal the old wounds of Watergate.

″When Watergate hit, it hurt me like anything,″ he said. ″What happened here yesterday was great after that.″

The library’s bookstore did a booming business. Copies of Nixon’s books were the hottest sellers. Visitors also snapped up pencils, caps, buttons and large photos of Nixon and his wife.

In the garden, the babble of children and snap of camera lenses mixed with the chirping of birds.

And that’s just how it should be, said Nixon’s nephew, Bill Milhous, 57.

″It’s time to get on,″ he said. ″I’m sure he wouldn’t want the mourning to go on and on.″

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