Inside Céline Dion and René Angélil's 21-Year Marriage: 'They Were the Greatest Love Story,' Says Producer David Foster

"They had this tremendous respect for each other," Foster says of the couple

Photo: Eric Ray Davidson/Trunk Archive

Céline Dion is coping with the loss of her beloved husband René Angélil, followed by the death of her brother just two days later. Click here for the full story, only in PEOPLE.

Since she was 12 years old, Céline Dion has had René Angélil guiding her every step of the way.

“I’ve always said this since I met them in 1989,” longtime friend and producer David Foster tells PEOPLE about the couple, who had three sons – René-Charles, 15, and 5-year-old twins Eddy and Nelson – together. “They were one of the greatest love stories ever, and I mean ever.”

With 26 years between them, Dion and Angélil’s relationship took a romantic turn when she was 19. After keeping the relationship secret for years, Dion revealed her love for Angélil in the liner notes of her The Colour of My Love album.

“They had trust. The way she looked at him, the way he looked at her,” says Foster of Dion and Angélil, who died Thursday from cancer. “There was an age difference, but as with all great couples, whatever the discrepancies are in age, it just sort of melts away as the months and years go by. They just became René and Céline.”

When she thinks about the couple, Dion’s longtime stylist Annie Horth – who first met the pair 18 years ago – “pictures them laughing,” she tells PEOPLE. “This was a couple that laughed a lot. He had a great sense of humor and Céline can be extremely funny. He found her very funny. They had their inside jokes.”

For much more on Dion and Angélil’s love story and how the singer is focusing on the couple’s children, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

Several times throughout her career, Dion put everything on hold to care for her husband as he battled throat cancer. But the music manager always wanted her to return to her beloved stage.

“He amazes me,” Dion told PEOPLE last March. “I feel his knowledge and his security and his love and support, and I feel uplifted. He wants to see me sing again and live this again and I want to do this with him.”

Adds Horth: “It’s very inspiring that that’s what this couple was about. They created something amazing completely together. He loved more than anything watching her perform.”

With reporting by JEFF NELSON

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