Suzanne Somers died Sunday, one day shy of her 77th birthday.
Her longtime husband, Alan Hamel, spoke to NBC News on Monday and said he knew the end was near in the days before her death.
“We were in bed together and her breathing was irregular and I was talking to her for hours,” Hamel, 87, said. “There was no response other than I kissed her, she responded, and then around 5 in the morning, she was gone.”
Although his cancer returned in July, three days before his death — after spending six weeks with specialists in Chicago — he seemed to be doing well, Hamel said.
“She was eating, you know, taking her medicine,” he said.
But a few days after they returned home, she says, things took a turn for the worse.
“All of a sudden she’s not responding, she’s not eating, she’s not taking her medication,” he said through tears. “Because I knew her so well, I said, ‘Should I call 911?’ I knew she wouldn’t like it and she didn’t want to go to the hospital.
Over the next few days, Hamel says, he sat by her side.
“Every night I talked to her for hours, and I assumed she could hear me because her lips responded. I hoped she understood what I was saying.
And, “Now I’m confused. Fortunately, we have a great family and they were all here.
The couple met in 1969 when Hamel was hosting ABC’s “The Anniversary Game” and Somers was a prize model.
“I was standing in a final meeting with the crew and staff before we started shooting the series and I saw this incredible woman standing across the stage and I thought I have to go there and I did,” he said. “And I’ve never been good at coming up with taxes, and I’m not going to tell you my credit line because it was so stupid, but it worked!”
The two married in 1977 and became business partners. Hammel recalled that he immediately began advising Somers in 1980 following a fiasco with his “Three’s Company” deal that led to his firing from the hit show.
“I grabbed her by the shoulders and said, ‘Suzanne, we’re going to make this work for us,’ and within a very short period of time, we had a plan,” she said. “We brought in some people that I know are experts and really understand branding.”
Despite Somers’ devastation at leaving the show she loved, Hamel says they poured their energies into her best-selling books, beauty lines, multiple Las Vegas residencies and their eventual best-seller, Thickmaster.
Although his wife landed another hit TV role on “Step by Step” from 1991 to 1998, Hamel says her role as Chrissy Snow held a special place.
“She told me when she got it [‘Three’s Company’], ‘Dumb blondes are annoying and you want to get away from them. I want to create a dumb blonde character that I love. If I love it, other people will love it too. And so it was.”
A tearful Hamel said he hopes his wife will be remembered for being a good mother and helping those around her.
“We wouldn’t have this family today if it wasn’t for her,” he said. “She did things that nobody knew. I would listen to her on the phone, making sure everything was going to be okay. She tried to answer everyone.”
Somers is survived by her husband, one son, three granddaughters and two stepchildren. He will be buried in a private ceremony later this week.