“[Regis and Joy Philbin] came over about two weeks ago. I saw Reg get out of the car with Joy and I’d sensed much more fragility than I had seen in him since the last time in January out in Los Angeles,” Gifford shared on Today from her Connecticut home. “We sat here on my screen porch and we laughed ourselves sick. We always just picked up right where we left off.”
Gifford went on to say that it had been two decades since she left Live with Regis and Kathie Lee where the two formed their close friendship. Ever since, however, the pair had taken every chance they had to see each other and spend time together. On this recent visit, Gifford said she knew that Regis was in bad shape.
“We just had the best time and after they left, I just thought to myself, ‘Lord, is that the last time I’m gonna see my friend?’” she recalled. “Because he was failing, I could tell.”
Just before the 88-year-old’s death on Friday, Gifford said that she had been at her home just outside of Tennessee and had a feeling that she needed to return to Connecticut, where Joy and Regis live. Soon after her arrival, Gifford received the news about Regis’s death.
Gifford made a call to Joy and ended up visiting their family’s home, although she mentioned that she didn’t want to “intrude on their private family time” — something that she learned from her own husband Frank’s 2015 passing is important for grieving.
Related: The history of "Live!" (with Regis, Kathie Lee, Kelly, and Ryan Seacrest)
“It’s been five years almost since Frank passed and you love your friends reaching out, but you also desperately need that private time as a family,” she shared. “Anyway, I was just grateful to have the time with them and comfort them a little bit, let them know that I believed with all of my heart that I know where Regis is and I know who he’s with because I had many, many conversations with him over the years about faith and about where we go when this life is over and he was very curious as always, listened. We always respected each other’s opinions so highly.”
Gifford added that she and Regis had never had “one cross word” while working together and explained just how much she learned from his ability to entertain.
“He was the most grateful person in the world, he never forgot where he came from. And he worked from the bottom, as you guys said, so rightly in the intro. He was just happy to be on a set,” Gifford said. “We had the biggest secret known to the whole world but they don’t do it. We had fun — F - U - N and it’s contagious.”
Days after Regis’s death, Gifford said that she will miss “everything” about her friend.
“I’m just so grateful the Lord gave me that final time,” she said. “That will forever be a precious gift the Lord gave me, that I got to laugh again with one of my best friends of all my lifetime.”
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