The Rev. Michael Wenning, a close friend and pastor to the late President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Reagan, died Tuesday evening from leukemia and kidney failure at his Mission Viejo, Calif., home, family members said.
Wenning had been ill for several years, his wife Freda Wenning told reporters. He was 75.
Although he avoided the media spotlight, Wenning became well-known from the live broadcast and photo images of him wrapping his arm around Nancy Reagan to comfort her during the funeral service for her husband. Wenning was chosen by the Reagans to preside over the week-long state run funeral for the former president which took place June 5-11, 2004.
Freda Wenning told The Christian Post that her husband had a strong friendship with Reagan and visited with him frequently, especially after the former president announced that he had Alzheimer’s disease. At the time, Wenning was the pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles where the Reagan couple attended.
“They developed a wonderful relationship,” Freda Wenning said. “My husband would share Scripture with him and pray with him every time they visited with each other.”
When Reagan was no longer able to attend the church or go to his Century City office, Wenning would visit him at the Reagan home in Bel Air, she said.
Michael Wenning retired from Bel Air Presbyterian in 2001, and the couple moved to Florida for six years, where they remained close to the Reagans by phone, she said. They returned to Southern California where the reverend served as pastor emeritus at Geneva Presbyterian in Laguna Hills while the church searched for a permanent pastor, the Orange County Register reported.
Her husband avoided the spotlight, especially after “big time media” wanted to interview him after the funeral because of his display of compassion for Nancy’s grief, Freda Wenning said.
“His compassion and humility were his greatest characteristics,” she said. “He just wanted to give God all the glory.”
Michael Wenning is survived by his wife Freda, his two daughters and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Sunday.