Stephen M. Silverman
June 08, 2011 08:55 AM

It was an emotional farewell fit for a best friend, which is exactly what it was.

Meredith Vieira ended her five-year run as the Today show co-anchor surrounded not only by colleagues Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Ann Curry (who will follow Vieira into the co-host chair), but also by husband Richard Cohen and family dog Jasper, as well as fans in the throng outside Rockefeller Center’s Studio 1A.

As the two-hour send-off progressed – broken up by other news stories – highlight clips were shown, including her singing along with Julie Andrews and the movie cast of The Sound of Music, her asking Madonna why she showed up so late to the studio (“The hair,” explained the singer”), and her offering to polish Colin Firth’s Oscar.

And there were snippets showing her travels on behalf of the show and the personal touches she brought to covering stories (especially where children were concerned), to say nothing of the hugs from her interview subjects. And those smiles.

PHOTOS: Meredith Vieira’s Favorite Today Moments

Special tribute clips also made their way into the mix: Jack Black, singing “Candle in the Wind” to her, and Jay Leno congratulating her for being able to leave NBC (and showing her nude in a mock-Twitter posting).

Vieira, 57, who cried at the end of a lengthy filmed salute, was quoted in a clip as saying she’ll miss the sense of family she found at Today.

“I have never enjoyed working with anyone as I have enjoyed working with Meredith,” said Lauer, who called the experience “a privilege” and “a great ride.” He added that he knew the audience at home loved watching her, too. How right he is.

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