Six of a Feather

updated 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/18/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

NESTLED IN THE HILLS OF CALIFORNIA'S Simi Valley, the $57 million Ronald Reagan Presidential Library attracted for its dedication ceremony last week what was believed to be the largest gathering ever of American Presidents and their families. George Bush and the four living former Chief Executives spoke briefly, with Jimmy Carter getting the laugh of the day by noting that the other White House residents had an advantage over him: "At least all of you have met another Democratic President. I've never had that opportunity yet."

The day's true scene stealers, however, were Barbara Bush and five of the six living former First Ladies. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who skipped the library dedications of all the ex-Presidents present, attended only the ceremony for the JFK Library in Boston, Mass., in 1979.

For Pat Nixon, 79, the California trip was a rare public appearance. A survivor of two strokes, Mrs. Nixon devotes most of her time to daughters Tricia Cox, 45, Julie Eisenhower, 43, and her grandchildren. Lady Bird Johnson, 78, commutes between the LBJ ranch and her work in Austin with the National Wildflower Research Center, the LBJ Library and the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Rosalynn Carter, 64, runs a mental-health task force at the Carter Center, a nonprofit humanitarian organization in Atlanta. She recently kicked off a campaign to immunize every U.S. child against childhood diseases before they reach the age of 2. Betty Ford, 73, is active as president of the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., and speaks on behalf of early detection of breast cancer. Nancy Reagan, 68, who, with her husband, has a burial plot reserved on the library site, was very involved in its planning and continues her campaign against drug addiction.

Jacqueline Onassis, 62, an editor at Doubleday whose most recent project was Martha Graham's autobiography, Blood Memory, phoned congratulations to Nancy and sent her children to represent the family. By her absence, she missed a chance to buy a $10 souvenir T-shirt and to bring home a free jar of jelly beans.

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