President Reagan said the late J. Willard Marriott Sr. was "watching us from a better place" Monday as he awarded Marriott a posthumous Medal of Freedom - the government's highest civilian award.

Reagan described Marriott - a former Utahn who founded such businesses as the Marriott hotel chain and A&W Root Beer - as "remarkable."He read a citation saying, "The son of a humble Utah sheep rancher, J. Willard Marriott turned a small root beer stand in the nation's capitol into one of America's largest and most successful businesses.

"Known for his vision, ingenuity and hard work, J. Willard Marriott will also be remembered as a man of devotion to family, a leader in his church, a respected voice in the halls of government and as a man who in his life and career brought honor to America."

Reagan gave the medal to Marriott's widow, Alice, in East Room ceremonies where seven other people were also given medals. The other seven included economists Malcolm Baldridge and Milton Friedman; singer Pearl Bailey Bellson; labor leader Irving Brown; former Chief U.S. Supreme Court Justice Warren E. Burger; Jean Faircloth MacArthur, the widow of Gen. Douglas MacArthur; and philanthropist David Packard.

While Marriott's businesses were based in the Washington, D.C., area, he maintained close ties to Utah. He donated money for facilities such as the Marriott Library at the University of Utah and the Marriott Center sports arena at Brigham Young University.

His business ventures were so successful that his widow and two sons were each listed in Forbes Magazine's list this month of the wealthiest Americans, with a net worth of roughly $245 million apiece.