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Nancy Reagan Pays Tribute to Charlton Heston

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Apr 07, 2008 | 6:38am EDT

Ronald Reagan's widow Nancy has paid tribute to Charlton Heston, dubbing the late actor "a hero on the big screen and a hero in life."

Heston, who died on Saturday, aged 84, was a longtime friend and supporter of the Republican ex-president. Both men moved into politics after acting careers and fought losing battles with Alzheimer's disease. Reagan died in 1994, aged 93.

The former First Lady says, "I will never forget Chuck as a hero on the big screen in the roles he played. But more importantly, I considered him a hero in life for the many times that he stepped up to support Ronnie ."

President George W. Bush, who handed Heston the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, also called him "one of the most successful actors in movie history and a strong advocate for liberty. He was a man of character and integrity, with a big heart."

Members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) have also paid tribute to the man who was elected the organization’s president in 1998. NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre said, "America has lost a great patriot."

Heston, an Academy Award winner for his role in 1959 epic Ben Hur, died at his home in Beverly Hills. He leaves behind wife Lydia and their two children Fraser and Holly.

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