Inside Doris Day's Long-Lasting Friendship with Rock Hudson and Final Goodbye
Reminiscing about the first time they met, Day — who died on Monday at the age of 97 — told PEOPLE in 2011 that she “knew almost nothing about him” beforehand.
“I remember asking someone ‘Is his name really Rock? That’s odd, don’t you think?’ ” remembered Day.
“But it didn’t take long to get to know him because he was funny. He really has a great sense of humor. And he named me Eunice. He always had to have a name for me. There were many of them, but Eunice he liked best,” she recalled. “We had a marvelous time.”
In addition to bringing the pair together, the romantic comedy was a hit at the box office, and with the critics. For her starring role in the film, Day received her one and only Best Actress Oscar nomination. They would go on to appear together in Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964).
Years later, after he was diagnosed with AIDS, Hudson kept his promise to appear on her variety show in July 1985. It was his gaunt appearance at the press conference announcing their reunion that alerted the world to his failing health – just before his AIDS diagnosis was made public.
“I hardly knew him,” recalled Day. “He was very sick. But I just brushed that off and I came out and put my arms around him and said ‘Am I glad to see you.'”
“He’d get very tired,” she shared of his last visit. “I’d bring him his lunch and fix him a big platter but he couldn’t eat. I’d say ‘What if I get a fork and feed you’ but he said ‘Doris I can’t eat.'”
Their goodbye broke her heart. “They had a small plane to get him to the airport,” she said. “We kissed goodbye and he gave me a big hug and he held onto me. I was in tears. That was the last time I saw him – but he’s in heaven now.”
“I don’t know who first told me about his death because a barrage of phone calls came in to me. It was a very difficult time,” she recalled in 2015.
Hudson passed away on Oct. 2, 1985, at age 59.
Looking back, Day remarked, “I think the reason people liked our movies is because they could tell how much we liked each other. It came across that way on screen. He was a good friend.”
“I’ll never forget how much we laughed,” she added.
Day’s rep confirmed to PEOPLE that the actress died at 1:00 a.m. on Monday at her home in California.
The Associated Press was first to report the news, which comes nearly two months after the actress celebrated her birthday and shared a recent photo with PEOPLE.