Nancy Reagan had long-time connection to Chicago

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Nancy Reagan returned to Chicago in 1995 to open the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Institute, which researches Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. (WLS)

When Nancy Reagan attended the Latin School of Chicago, she was known as Nancy Davis.

Reagan graduated from in 1939 - a smiling high school senior wearing a string of pearls. The former First Lady, who died Sunday at age 94, returned to alma mater in 1982 to visit with third graders.

Her step father was a well-known neurosurgeon and chairman of the Department of Surgery at Northwestern University.

"They lived on East Delaware in Streeterville in 1930," said Russell Lewis, chief historian at the Chicago History Museum. "And by 1940 East Lake Shore Drive. He was very successful."

After attending college in Massachusetts, Reagan returned to Chicago and worked at Marshall Field's department store.

"I don't know if she sold the gloves or hats or cosmetics," Lewis said. "Not her dream job."

She really wanted to be an actress and found success in TV and film when she moved to Hollywood. That's also where she met her husband -- a well-known actor at the time named Ronald Ragan, who also had ties to Chicago.

"He lived for two years 1914 to 1915 in Hyde Park a brief period," Lewis said.

When her husband made the pivot to politics, Nancy Reagan became the First Lady of California, then of the United States when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980.

But she never forgot her roots, returning to Chicago in 1995 to open the Ronald and Nancy Reagan Institute, which focuses on research related to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

WATCH: Former Reagan secret service agent, now Orland Park chief, remembers Nancy

Tim McCarthy, a former Secret Service agent who took a bullet for President Reagan during a 1981 assassination attempt, said he and First Lady Nancy Reagan always had plenty to talk about. For one, they both grew up in Chicago.

"She said it was a wonderful upbringing, she loved Chicago," said McCarthy, who is now the chief of police in suburban Orland Park. "She said she didn't love the weather by the way. Once you go to California, you're not likely to come back to Chicago."

The two became even closer after the shooting.

"She thanked my wife, and thanked me a number of times," McCarthy recalled on Sunday. "While she couldn't have been more gracious, it was a job too."

McCarthy said he and Nancy Reagan stayed in touch until the end. He received a note from her just last month - a thank you note after he sent her flowers on her late husband's birthday.

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obituarystreetervilleChicago - Gold Coast
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