Inside Regis Philbin's relationship with Kathie Lee Gifford

Legendary television host Regis Philbin has passed away at the age of 88, People confirms. In a statement, his family said the star died of natural causes, adding, "We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career and ask for privacy as we mourn his loss." Philbin is perhaps best known for his co-hosting role on Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, sitting beside beloved former Today Show fourth hour staple, Kathie Lee Gifford. The adorable duo greeted us each morning for 12 years (via EW). People reports Philbin and Gifford remained close even after she took her final bow on Live!, and was replaced by Kelly Ripa

On July 24, Gifford shared a Bible quote on Twitter, which was widely interpreted as a commentary on Philbin's passing: "Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called. I Timothy 6:12 LORD, give us the strength we need to persevere on our journey. Hold us up by Your righteous right hand and deliver us from despair." Fans flocked to her page to pay their respects to the well-known TV personality whom she counted as a dear friend.

Regis Philbin treasured his time with Kathie Lee and she thought the world of him

According to USA Today, Philbin told Gifford just a few years ago, "There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about the 15 years we spent together and how much I loved you." For her part, the hostess with the infectious laugh said, "Everybody loves Regis." She also told Closer Weekly, "He's such a sweetheart. I love him to pieces."

The pair continued to spend time together in the years following their ABC gig. A friend compared the pair to army buddies, bonded for life, adding, "They genuinely like and love each other." Apparently, the chemistry between Philbin and Gifford was instant — they first met working together onThe Morning Show in 1985. Their working relationship spilled off-screen, and the duo reportedly spent time together with their respective spouses, Frank Gifford, and Joy Philbin, who also became close. Philbin was also by her side when Gifford's husband passed away five years ago.

How they supported one another toward the end

Philbin was even on hand to wish Gifford goodbye when she exited Today in 2018. In a video, the game show host said, "Kathie Lee, you want to know the best part of my life? My TV life? Was in the 15 years I spent with you, from 1985 to 2000. We stayed friends throughout the entire game and it was a lot of fun" (via Deadline). He went on to say, "I know you're going to be moving on to a great new career, making movies. And since I've seen the first one, I know you're going to be a great success. I really mean it. I want you to know how I will always remember the great times that we had working together and how you are as a person: just great."

Gifford said she would be spending time with Philbin and his wife that summer. While we don't know the last time she saw or spoke with the television legend, it's clear Gifford is grieving the loss of a very special person in her life; one that remained a close, personal friend for 35 years.