On Jan. 25, Moore passed away at the age of 80, surrounded by her loving husband and close friends, after being on a ventilator and hospitalized with pneumonia due to complications from her decades-long battle with diabetes.
Several of the TV legend’s friends and loved ones spoke with People for this week’s cover story, including New York-based cardiologist Levine, who remembers the actress, mother and Mary Tyler Moore Show leading lady.
- For more on Moore’s life, watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Mary Tyler Moore, available now on the People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN) and at People.com/marytylermoore. Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the app for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, Xfinity, iOS and Android devices.
“I can’t believe she is gone. Mary was my life, my light, my love. The emptiness I feel without her with me is without bottom. She was a force of nature who fiercely defended her autonomy even as her health was failing. Mary was fearless, determined, and willfull. If she felt strongly about something, or that there was truth to be told, she would do it, no matter the consequences,” Levine said in an exclusive statement.
“She was kind, genuine, approachable, honest, and humble. And she had that smile. Oh, to see her smile that smile, just once more. … My sadness is only tempered by the remarkable outpouring of good wishes, tributes, and personal ‘Mary stories’ told, with heart, by those touched by her grace,” the statement continued. “As long as we all remember her, talk about her, share our stories about her, and what she meant to us, her light will never go out.”
- For more on Moore’s life, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Moore was married twice before she met Levine, first to producer Richard Meeker and then to television executive Grant Tinker. In 1982 — two years after the death of her only child, 24-year-old son Ritchie — Moore finally met the man with whom she would spend the rest of her days.
That year, Moore’s mother Marge fell ill with severe bronchitis, and the actress called her regular doctor, who was unavailable. Instead, Moore was connected with Dr. Levine, who was on call that day. A few days later they made a dinner date, which progressed to the two falling in love. They wed on Thanksgiving Eve 1983 at Manhattan’s Pierre Hotel
Moore’s longtime Mary Tyler Moore Show costar and close friend Valerie Harper was a bridesmaid at the couple’s wedding, and told PEOPLE at the time of the actress’ nuptials that Moore was “filled with joy because she and Robert are friends as well as loving each other.”
“He makes her feel cherished,” Harper added. “Both families [Levine’s is Jewish, Moore’s Roman Catholic] are happy, too.”
- People’s Commemorative Edition, Mary Tyler Moore: Celebrating the Life of a TV Pioneer, is on sale now
“My husband has always been very good at getting me out of myself when I get down and depressed and all of that — never seriously,” Moore told Entertainment Tonight in 2013. “So, I am basically a very happy person.”
On Sunday, the beloved actress and activist was laid to rest at the Oaklawn Cemetery in Fairfield, Connecticut, according to the Connecticut Post. About 50 of the sitcom icon’s family and friends reportedly gathered for a private ceremony, and the cemetery was open to the public Sunday afternoon for fans looking to honor the late star.
–With Natalie Stone