PHOENIX, OCT. 31 -- President Reagan led mourners in a touching memorial service for his mother-in-law today, evoking tears but also laughter in his eulogy to a woman he remembered for her "wit and charm and kindliness."
"How do we say goodbye to someone we've loved for so long, someone of innate tenderness who loved us?" Reagan said of Edith Luckett Davis, 91, who died Monday of a stroke after several years of failing health.
Nancy Reagan, wearing a black suit and looking pale and tired, wept quietly as she listened from the front row, but at times she also laughed at the some of the president's humorous remembrances.
Nancy Reagan, who underwent surgery for breast cancer two weeks ago today, slipped into the church on the arm of the president. When she left, she was wearing dark glasses.
About 200 relatives and friends joined the Reagans for the 35-minute service in the Spanish mission-style St. Thomas The Apostle Catholic Church. Davis, a Presbyterian who was a frequent worshiper at St. Thomas for 36 years, was cremated and interred.
The Rev. John Doran, describing her as one of the "first benefactors" of the parish, said he was fulfilling a promise to her late husband, Chicago neurosurgeon Loyal Davis, who once asked him "to bury her down in that church where she's been going all these years."
Doran made Nancy Reagan and others laugh with another story about how he introduced Davis to the bishop of Phoenix. "She met him very formally, almost curtsied to him, and then she turned to me and said, 'Well, aren't you and I going to kiss? We always do when the bishop isn't here.' "
Reagan said he and Nancy spent their honeymoon with the Davises in Arizona. "And after getting to know her and after a period of that kind together, I have to tell you -- I have never been able to tell a mother-in-law story or joke since," he said.
Family members attending were Ron and Doria Reagan, Michael Reagan, Maureen Reagan and her husband Dennis Revell, Nancy Reagan's step-brother, Dr. Richard Davis, his wife, Patricia, and their son, daughter and daughter-in-law.
The absence of Patti Davis, the Reagans' daughter, was described by Elaine Crispen, the First Lady's press secretary, as "another crack in an already broken heart."
Dozens of floral arrangements were sent, but apparently none was from Patti Davis. "I haven't come across a card yet," Crispen said.
A former Davis neighbor in the posh Biltmore Estates hosted a reception after the service. Limousines lined the residential street, discharging such Hollywood guests as Merv Griffin and Eva Gabor and longtime California friends.