SIDE BY SIDE
All throughout Patrick Swayze’s battle with pancreatic cancer, his wife of 34 years, Lisa Niemi (with him at a L.A. Lakers-San Antonio Spurs game in May 2008), was by his side to help him soldier on. From helping him keep track of his medication to flying him to chemo treatments (she’s a registered pilot), the dancer-actress was his rock. “He looks into her eyes and he sees nothing except, ‘Everything is going to be okay,'” Patrick’s brother Don told PEOPLE in 2008. “No matter what he’s going through, it’s okay. She’s just there.”
Patrick was 19 and Lisa was 15 when they met at his choreographer mother Patsy’s ballet school in Houston. Immediately, he sensed something different about her. “I knew she was the smartest chick I’d ever met in my life,” he told PEOPLE in 2007. Before Lisa, “I had been meeting girls with names like Mimi and Angel. And for a long time I didn’t feel like I deserved her.” Lisa wore a handmade dress to their June 12, 1975 nuptials held in the backyard of her Houston home, and their reception was held at Patrick’s family dance studio.
SHE'S LIKE THE WIND
His love for Lisa inspired Patrick – together at the premiere party for Dirty Dancing in 1987 – to pen the hit ballad “She’s Like the Wind” for the blockbuster movie’s soundtrack. Writing that song, “I just felt at that time that I’m very, very lucky to have a woman who thinks I hung the moon,” he told PEOPLE in 2007. And though they didn’t appear together onscreen, Patrick practiced all his dance routines for the movie with his wife.
ON THE MOVE
“Like any great marriage, they seem to move together as one person,” Kelly Lynch, Swazye’s costar in 1989’s Road House, told PEOPLE about Lisa and Patrick (at the 1979 premiere of his film Skatetown USA). “They’re like a single organism. She is a strong, strong woman – very funny, very kind, very smart. They love each other and it’s apparent. The partnership is for life.”
At the World Music Awards in Monte Carlo in 1994, the pair showed off their onstage chemistry when they took to the stage for a romantic dance set to an instrumental version of Whitney Houston’s “All the Man That I Need.” According to the 2009 biography Patrick Swayze: One Last Dance, Patrick gushed afterwards, “It was a very special experience for me for the world to see what an absolutely beautiful miracle angel she is.”
BREAK OF 'DAWN'
The pair had the opportunity to costar in several projects, including 1987’s action film Steel Dawn. And Patrick was one of Lisa’s biggest fans. When she joined the cast of the Broadway musical The Will Rogers Follies in May 1993, he was there to cheer her on – even surprising her onstage with a cake on opening night, which happened to be her 37th birthday.
A constant visitor to the set of The Beast, Lisa also directed Patrick in the April 9, 2009 episode of the AampE show. “He was fantastic. He had challenges because he was still doing chemo and it wasn’t always easy, but he’d suit up and show up. He was always there,” she told PEOPLE that month. “He treated me like he was honored to show up on my set.” And it wasn’t the first time she’d directed him: She helmed the 1995 drama One Last Dance, in which they costarred.
KISS TO REMEMBER
Besides her beauty, what drew Patrick to Lisa (in 1979) was her sense of honesty. “She was different than anyone I’d known. Like a flower. If I started my macho stuff, she’d cut me off fast,” Patrick told PEOPLE in 1984. “I’d be dead without her. She helped me break my self-destructive tendencies. I was an insecure little baby. I don’t ever see us apart. She’s my creative partner.”
“We’ve always been a team. We raise horses together, run a music business and a wildlife preserve together,” Patrick once said of Lisa (on vacation in Rome in 2005). “We have an unspoken language after all these years.” Though the couple had hoped to have children after suffering a miscarriage on Valentine’s Day in 1990, it wasn’t to be. “We just missed our window; we got so focused on our world and our careers that we missed the boat,” he told PEOPLE in 2007.
“The way he looked at her, the way he held on to her, the way she smiled, I can’t really imagine one without the other,” Barbara Walters said about spending time with the couple in December 2008 on their California ranch for the TV special Patrick Swayze: The Truth. “That marriage is extraordinary.”
A SPECIAL CONNECTION
Together through the ups and downs of fame and personal struggles, Patrick and Lisa’s marriage was the real thing. “A relationship survives because of keeping the friendship alive and learning how to fall in love over and over again and never taking the other person for granted and seeing things in a new light with new eyes,” Patrick said in 2007. “We’re big believers in, arguments are okay as long as it’s not about your ego, but it’s about a mutual goal – trying to create something special.”