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July 29, 2014

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Reagan insider shares experiences

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Hyun James Kim / Special to the Home News

Sun City Anthem resident Curtis Patrick shared some of his experiences with Ronald Reagan at Paseo Verde Library Monday.

As California governor, Ronald Reagan once pushed a government car after it stalled in the intersection. At one small-town campaign stop, he ended lunch by tossing a football with children for a half-hour. He also walked out of a country club appearance after a Jewish man in his entourage was denied a seat.

These personal glimpses of Reagan were offered and detailed by a Sun City Anthem resident who was there. Curtis Patrick, 71, shared them with the public at Paseo Verde Library Feb. 23 and in his book "Reagan: What Was He Really Like?"

When Reagan ran for governor, Patrick served as his advance man, handling communications, transportation and security. After the death of another former Reagan staffer, Patrick set out to complete the project they had long talked about, and he tape-recorded former officials as they combed through their memories for personal vignettes.

"We felt that we were part of the family," Patrick said of his former boss. "He passed onto us a belief of civility, comity and decorum."

Patrick traced his involvement with Reagan to his speech endorsing Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, whom he was working for at the time. After being introduced, Nancy Reagan later called Patrick to offer him a job.

He shared many stories of his personal and professional interactions with the Reagans.

When Reagan was governor, a fan offered him personal use of one of his planes to land in more remote areas. The man, who raised turkeys, hosed out the aircraft's interior to clean it for the governor.

Patrick said he was unsure whether Reagan would agree to be flown by the man after seeing the loud, rickety craft. The assembled press, who carried typewriters on board, were not sure either. But Reagan agreed, and the press chanted "gobble, gobble, gobble," each time it landed.

"The plane went everywhere," Patrick said. "It was just fabulous."

Patrick started compiling the book in 1999 through tape recordings with former officials.

"It had to be accurate," he said. "That's why it took so long. I wanted to check out every single thing that was told."

Patrick, who had never written a book before, self-published this one. He is planning a second volume for release this fall.

"You have to have patience and have a propensity for writing," he said. "You have to be willing to have a lot of pitfalls."

Heidi Voorhees was drawn to Patrick's talk out of curiosity.

"My father is a great fan of Ronald Reagan," she said. "I wanted to get a sense of his place in history. I thought (Patrick) was very engaging and insightful."

Wayne Renfro arrived at the library to locate a film about Reagan, only to be told that a former aide was coincidentally presenting a talk.

He was impressed by Reagan's career trajectory.

"It's amazing he went from a TV personality to the president," Renfro said.

Dave Clark can be reached at 990-2677 or [email protected].

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