Known for his ability to stage symbolic public appearances for President Reagan, Michael Deaver could not have directed his own memorial service any better.
Vice President Dick Cheney and former first lady Nancy Reagan were among those who gathered Thursday in the picturesque setting of Washington's National Cathedral to pay tribute to Deaver, who died Aug. 18 from pancreatic cancer. Singer Johnny Mathis provided a rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Deaver was both celebrated and scorned for his talents as an image-maker for Ronald Reagan, first in the California governor's office and later in the White House.
"He was a genius at linking the great communicator's powerful words with equally powerful images," former Secretary of State James Baker told the audience. "People saw that the president's words had meaning far beyond headlines, and came to trust the president."
Baker, who was Reagan's White House chief of staff from 1981 to 1985, recalled how Deaver persuaded the president to stop wearing a blue checked suit that the first lady disliked. Deaver told Reagan that his staff wished he had worn that suit on the day in 1981 that he was shot by a would-be assassin, so that it would have been cut off of his body and ruined.
Richard Edelman, president and chief executive of the public relations firm Edelman, where Deaver was vice president at the time of his death, praised Deaver's role in elevating the profession.
"He transformed public relations, because he earned a seat at the top table," Edelman said. "He changed the way we saw ourselves."