September 06, 2018 05:10 PM

Sally Field is honoring Burt Reynolds with special words following his death on Thursday morning.

“There are times in your life that are so indelible, they never fade away,” Field said in a statement to PEOPLE. “They stay alive, even forty years later. My years with Burt never leave my mind. He will be in my history and my heart, for as long as I live. Rest, Buddy.”

Field and Reynolds first met on the set of their film Smokey and the Bandit in 1977 and swiftly began dating. The two went on to star together in four films and dated for nearly five years before calling it quits in 1982.

Despite their breakup, Reynolds revealed in a 2015 interview with Vanity Fair that he still loved Field decades later, calling her the “love of my life.”

Reynolds said he continued to “miss her terribly,” adding, “Even now, it’s hard on me. I don’t know why I was so stupid. Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up.”

Sally Field and Burt Reynolds
Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

RELATED: Burt Reynolds, Screen Legend and Sex Symbol, Dies at 82

In an interview with PEOPLE that same year, Reynolds said he “really adored” Field.

“It was real,” he said of their relationship. “She’s very, very special. Her mother and I… I loved her mother.”

Sally Field and Burt Reynolds
Ron Galella/WireImage

Reynolds said it was Field’s mother who warned him about hurting her.

“I know you’re going to break her heart, but please be gentle,” her mother told the actor.

“I said, ‘I don’t know how you could break somebody heart and be gentle, but I don’t intend to break her heart. You never intend to,” Reynolds said.

Speaking to EW and PEOPLE Editorial Director Jess Cagle about Reynolds’ comments in March 2016 during a SiriusXM Town Hall, the actress responded, “Well, yeah.

Burt Reynolds and Sally Field
Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

The Longest Yard actor died Thursday morning at Jupiter Medical in Florida, according to manager Erik Kritzer.

My uncle was not just a movie icon; he was a generous, passionate and sensitive man who was dedicated to his family, friends, fans and acting students,” Reynolds’ niece, Nancy Lee Hess, said in a statement.

“He has had health issues, however, this was totally unexpected. He was tough. Anyone who breaks their tailbone on a river and finishes the movie is tough. And that’s who he was. My uncle was looking forward to working with Quentin Tarantino (in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and the amazing cast that was assembled.”

RELATED: Burt Reynolds On Loving and Losing Sally Field: ‘I Do Miss Her’

“So many people have already contacted me, to tell me how they benefitted professionally and personally from my uncle’s kindness,” she continued. “I want to thank all of his amazing fans who have always supported and cheered him on, through all of the hills and valleys of his life and career.”

“My family and I appreciate the outpouring of love for my uncle, and I ask that everyone please respect our family’s privacy at this very difficult time.”

Reynolds had been battling health issues the past years. In 2013, the actor’s rep said he was in intensive care in a Florida hospital for treatment of flu symptoms, including dehydration.

In recent years, Reynolds was seen using a cane as he posed for photographs — he was spotted using one at his last major public appearance at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.

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