WASHINGTON - Nancy Reagan’s funeral was held Friday in California. With her passing, many are remembering stories of her life and legacy. One D.C. mother is remembering a very personal experience she had with the former first lady.
Katie Gilliam was at the White House on Friday to sign a condolence book in honor of Reagan. Her connection to the first lady is a painful, but moving one that takes us back to 1983 when her 8-year-old son was involved in a hit-and-run accident in Northwest D.C.
Gilliam’s son eventually passed, but not before Mrs. Reagan honored one of his final wishes.
“He was very smart, very intelligent, he liked animals, loved his family,” said Gilliam describing her late son.
Ornell Irae Gilliam was a third-grade student who was struck by a driver after he left school. After the accident, he was in a coma. When he emerged, he had a request.
“After he came out of the coma, he had asked to see Nancy Reagan,” his mother said. “And I said, ‘The president’s wife? The first lady?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘Why do you want to see her?’ He said, ‘I just want to see her in that pretty red suit that she wears all the time.’"
Reagan honored Ornell Irae’s wish on Christmas Eve 1983. She spent about four hours at the hospital with him along with other children in the intensive care unit. She gave him a Christmas gift and took pictures with him.
“It was amazing,” said Gilliam. “I don’t think any other first lady would have done what she did.”
That evening, her son took a turn for the worse. Gilliam explained that his life expired on Christmas and he was pronounced dead on December 27.
For Gilliam, words can’t fully express how she felt about Mrs. Reagan taking the time to visit her son.
“I thank her,” she said. “I thank her for honoring my son’s last request on his last hours of life.”
In January of 1984, Reagan sent her condolences to the family and said she remembered Ornell Irae well. There is no doubt that Gilliam will always remember Mrs. Reagan well, too.