The Blair Book

As tens of thousands of people paid respects yesterday to her husband lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, former first lady Nancy Reagan welcomed a stream of visitors at Blair House, the residence across the street from the White House.

Many once shared the world spotlight with her husband, and some became close friends. Among them was former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the first to see her yesterday. In the condolence book at Blair House, she wrote: "To Ronnie. Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

After their visit, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney and his wife, Mila, wrote: "For Ron with affection, admiration and respect. The Gipper always came through!"

There was, too, a visit from Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, a foe turned friend. In Russian, he wrote in the condolence book: "I convey my deep feelings of condolence to dear Nancy and the whole family."

Lasting Legacy

Former Kansas senator and presidential candidate Robert J. Dole (R) was among the VIPs who paid respects to Reagan in the Capitol Rotunda yesterday. He has his own idea for a fitting tribute to the 40th president.

Some have suggested that Reagan's face be etched on currency or added to Mount Rushmore. Dole said he would favor an "extended living memorial" to deal with the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, from which the former president suffered for years.

A Proud Chief

D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, with his wife and 17-year-old son, paid his respects in the Capitol Rotunda. Then it was back to work, planning for security at today's service at Washington National Cathedral. Among his priorities: making sure everything runs on time so the plane carrying Reagan's coffin back to California for a sunset burial leaves on schedule from Andrews Air Force Base.

The son of a bus driver, Ramsey said it was a great honor to be at the front of Wednesday's procession along Constitution Avenue, where he rode in Police Cruiser 1 with Assistant Chief Michael Fitzgerald. He also said he was proud to see his officers in special dress stationed along the parade route.

"They realized the importance of doing this right, even if they were responsible for just five feet," he said.

The Three Wreaths

The last strain of a choral rendering of "America the Beautiful" was sounded in the Capitol Rotunda when three soldiers solemnly marched in, each carrying a large wreath made of greens, red and white carnations and purple irises.

During Wednesday's ceremony, the wreaths were carried to the three Republican leaders who had spoken: Vice President Cheney, Senate President Pro Tempore Ted Stevens (Alaska) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (Ill.), who then placed them by the coffin.

One wreath had a ribbon marked "House of Representatives," another "Senate," the third "Executive Branch."

Drinking Crowd

Maryland is one of 30 states without a dedicated memorial to the former president, so scores of Reagan admirers are going to the Ropewalk Tavern in Baltimore's Federal Hill, where a six-foot bronze statue of the late president stands tall. There are busts of Reagan on each of the tavern's bars, too. Yesterday, fresh flowers were strewn at the statue's feet.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) said that now would be "an appropriate time" to honor Reagan but that he hasn't thought about what state property could be named in Reagan's honor.

Compiled from reports by staff writers Valerie Strauss, Sari Horwitz, Judith Havemann, S. Mitra Kalita, Charles Babington and Hamil R. Harris and the Associated Press.