"If This is Us and Modern Family came together, it would be us," B. Smith's husband Dan Gasby said of his relationship with girlfriend Alex Lerner
The husband of B. Smith is opening up about his relationship with another woman as he cares for the famed restaurateur and lifestyle guru amid her ongoing battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Dan Gasby, 64, first went public with his romance with Alex Lerner, 53, back in December, in a post on the Facebook page he shares with B. Smith, who he has been married to for 26 years.
On Monday, The Washington Post published a profile of the trio, with Gasby and Lerner explaining in their own words how their relationship came to be.
“If This is Us and Modern Family came together, it would be us,” Gasby told The Post.
The two met in the summer of 2017 at a Hamptons bar, and struck up a conversation. Romance didn’t come at first. “We were friends,” Lerner, a divorced mother of three, told The Post, adding that she had socialized with Smith, 69, previously at charity events. “I didn’t want to go out with a married man.”
But at a breakfast with Gasby and Smith one morning, Lerner realized, “This is not a man cheating on his wife.”
“What I admire about him is that he takes care of her,” she explained to The Post.
Lerner, in turn, has also begun taking care of Smith. She has a room in Gasby and Smith’s East Hampton home, where she stays when she visits from her Manhattan apartment.
“If I can be compassionate to her … if I can do anything for her, it makes me feel good,” she told The Post, her voice “breaking,” according to the outlet. “If it is giving her something to drink, or making her something to eat — she loves to eat — I feel good.”
Smith was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago, after Gasby noticed her become increasingly — and uncharacteristically — moody and forgetful.
The news came as she was continuing to build her empire. Over the years, she opened three eponymous restaurants, wrote three cookbooks, and hosted the nationally syndicated show, B. Smith With Style. She also made history as the first African American woman to grace the cover of Mademoiselle magazine, as well as the first African American woman to launch her own brand of home goods (at Bed, Bath and Beyond.)
Her restaurants have all closed now, with Smith and Gasby instead turning their attention to Alzheimer’s advocacy work. They even chronicled their experience with the disease in the 2016 memoir, Before I Forget: Love, Hope, Help, and Acceptance in Our Fight Against Alzheimer’s.
At the time, Gasby told PEOPLE that taking care of Smith was a round-the-clock job. “It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever dealt with,” he said. “Anybody who is an Alzheimer’s care giver knows exactly what other caregivers are going through. It’s 24/7. The complexity and the intensity of it is very tough.”
Caring for Smith “is overwhelming most of the time,” Gasby admitted to PEOPLE then. “I’m taking it one day at a time,” he said. “It’s extremely difficult. At times I feel like I am between the Titanic and the iceberg and the water is cold and it makes a difference which one I get on.”
RELATED: Family Fights to Save 6 Year Old with Childhood Alzheimer’s: ‘He’s the Light of My Life,’ Says Mom
From there, it appears Smith’s health has only gotten worse. The Post reported that the disease has “ravaged [Smith’s] brain, jumbling her memories, [and] turning her sentences into alphabet soup.”
Gasby has told Smith about his relationship with Lerner, though it doesn’t seem to register.
His daughter from a previous marriage Dana, 32, has given her blessing to their relationship. “When he told me, I was like, ‘Thank God. I’m happy,’ ” Dana told The Post, explaining that her father has not abandoned Smith, who raised Dana since she was young. “B. is my mom … She’s in this house. She’s here every day.”
Still, there have been critics of Gasby and Lerner’s coupling. “You don’t bring your mistress in the house where your WIFE lives,” one wrote online, according to The Post. “She’s not dead.”
On Facebook, Monday, Gasby addressed his critics. “The idiots and ignorant people calling for my arrest and saying B is or has ever been abused — I only wish someone in your immediate family has Alzheimer’s so you can see feel and experience the pain of millions of people across this country so you can know first hand what it’s like to care 24/7/365 for someone who can no longer care for themselves!” he wrote.
“I love my wife but I can’t let her take away my life!” he added. “5-10 years from now when many of you who will have an almost predestined meeting with Alzheimer’s because of genetics, obesity, and a myriad of inflammatory diseases, you’ll be wishing for someone to share moments with and ease the pain of loneliness and despair.”
He continued. “The clock is ticking. I know I can and have [managed] this, but can you do it too?”