Ambassador Faith Ryan Whittlesey died early Monday after a long bout with cancer. She was 79.
Throughout her illness, she remained active in conservative politics.
Mrs. Whittlesey was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and remained a staunch ally.
Like Mr. Trump, she opposed using America’s military might to change foreign governments except as a last resort to protect vital U.S. national interests.
Mrs. Whittlesey, who was raised as a Protestant and converted in 2000 to Catholicism, was a staunch anti-communist and equally staunch admirer, she said, of John Quincy Adams’ observation: “We do not go abroad for monsters to destroy.”
Seeing Ronald Reagan as that same kind of anti-communist, anti-foreign entanglements conservative, she waged a rough-and-tumble war on behalf of “Reaganism” as a senior official in his White House and as his ambassador to Switzerland.
Flexibly embracing a regime-change intervention of sorts on a small scale, she came to work closely with Marine Lieutenant Col. Oliver L. North, who played a key role on Mr. Reagan’s National Security Council in the administration’s anti-communist initiative in Central America.
A graduate of Wells College and the University of Pennsylvania’s law school, she became a force in Republican politics in Pennsylvania, serving in the commonwealth’s House of Representatives.
Of modest Irish family origin in New York state, she came to exude as an adult woman an elegance and authority that filled whatever room she entered.
“Her personal charm and gracious manner enabled her to be a successful leader in her political and philanthropic endeavors,” said Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese III, chairman of Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
Calling her “a good friend and a dedicated patriot,” Mr. Meese saluted her “invaluable service to President Reagan as a strong advocate for conservative principles and as a respected diplomat.”
“Strong advocate” would be an understatement to many who knew of her role in the battles inside the Reagan White House and administration between Reagan-style philosophical conservatives like her and Mr. Meese and standard-brand Republicans.
Mrs. Whittlesey’s commitment to citizens’ rights to own and carry firearms for protection and sports became one of the battleground issues inside the administration, with the more cautious high-ranking officials wanting to keep Mr. Reagan away from gun-rights as an issue except among certain constituencies at election time.
She retained that feistiness on the issue long after the Reagan administration has passed into the history books.
“Faith always stood by the Second Amendment and the NRA when it counted,” recalled her long-time friend Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association.
“The truth is, that in the early Reagan administration, she was part of a dedicated group that fought to ‘Let Reagan be Reagan’ because they knew it was the best way to preserve conservative principles.” Mr. LaPierre said. “She was a steady compass for Ronald Reagan and his beliefs, and continued to be that compass answering the question of ‘What would Ronald Reagan do?’ for the rest of her life.”
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