Cape residents recall Reagan's trip to the area

Monday, June 7, 2004

Respect for Reagan transcended party lines

Julia Metelski ~ Southeast Missourian

While much of the nation mourns the death of former President Ronald Reagan, some Cape Girardeau residents have a more personal memory of him as a cheerful, respectable speaker who visited the area 16 years ago.

"That day was perfect," said retired Rep. Mary Kasten. "It was one of those days that you would pinch yourself, thinking 'I can't believe that I'm here.'"

Thousands of enthusiastic observers gathered for Reagan's historic visit to Cape Girardeau on Sept. 14, 1988. The only other sitting president to visit the city was William Howard Taft on Oct. 26, 1909.

Reagan's motorcade began at the Cape Girardeau Municipal Airport and ended at the Show Me Center, where more than 2,000 spaces were filled with mainly college, high school and grade school students. Sitting on stage with other officials during the address, Kasten remembered how the students were both "courteous and respectful," she said.

Don McNeely, former newscaster and weatherman for KFVS-TV, was responsible for "whipping up enthusiasm" by leading cheers with the students who stood on the center floor. Even after waiting for more than an hour before Reagan's appearance, he said, the atmosphere was festive, and the audience responded very well.

"I think most of us, regardless of party, were impressed by the president and appreciated the fact that he visited our city," McNeely said.

He was a man who knew what he stood for and believed in, and "we respected him for that," he said.

Kasten's personal memories of Reagan stretch back to 1984, when she and other women Missouri representatives ate lunch with Reagan in the East Room of the White House. Since then, her admiration of him has remained steady, she said, stating that and he had "warm and comfortable" personality that made people feel as if they were receiving special attention.

"I'm sad that he isn't able to hear all the accolades we're giving him," Kasten said, stating that he was "an outstanding man" and "a truly remarkable world leader" who effectively pursued freedom for the world with great spiritual dedication.

"It's obvious that his background in broadcasting and acting in the movies was great experience for his greatest role as president," McNeely said.

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What do you remember most about Ronald Reagan?

"He was a man of his word. His integrity. He was a Christian man and he lived what he believed." --Gary Owen, Bloomfield, Mo.

"His stability as a man. He knew what he wanted and wasn't afraid to do it. He was a compassionate man." --Greg Priest, Cape Girardeau

"I felt like he kind of stood up for America. I hated the way it ended up with Alzheimer's and all that." --Fred Greenway, Kennett, Mo.

"I think he was a gentleman and a scholar. He was a Class A boy." -- Euil Trickey, Cape Girardeau

"Probably when he was shot. It was the first time in my generation that someone of that stature was shot." -- Gina Bader, Cape Girardeau

--Compiled by Bob Miller

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