In her final days, he slept in a cot by her side at St. John's Medical Center in Los Angeles

By Liz McNeil
June 20, 2019 10:00 AM
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Ten years after the death of Farrah Fawcett, her longtime love, Ryan O’Neal, remembers the golden girl he fell for in 1979. “There was never a day I didn’t love her,” O’Neal, 78, says exclusively in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday.

Fawcett died on June 25, 2009, at age 62 of anal cancer. Now that a decade has passed, those closest to her remember the beautiful and brave friend they loved — and her heartbreaking goodbye.

Fawcett fell in love with O’Neal in 1979, when she was still married to Lee Majors, then star of the hit TV show The Six Million Dollar Man. Majors asked O’Neal to check in on his wife while he was away filming, and the rest was Hollywood history for the next three decades.

Ryan O’Neal, Farrah Fawcett and their son, Redmond
Courtesy Ryan O'Neal

Fawcett and O’Neal, who had a son, Redmond O’Neal, in 1985, never married. They split in 1997 and announced they would jointly raise their son. They reunited in 2001 after O’Neal was diagnosed with leukemia, and Fawcett took care of him. (His leukemia is now in remission.)

  • People’s special edition celebrating the life of Farrah Fawcett is on sale now at Amazon and wherever magazines are sold.

O’Neal was known for his volatility, and their union was far from perfect. Still, Fawcett’s close friend Sylvia Dorsey says: “Ryan was the love of her life. I don’t think she was happy without him. They fought and loved with passion. It was never boring. They were electric together.”

Courtesy Ryan O'Neal

Even amidst the sadness of Farrah’s final days, there were a few moments of levity courtesy of O’Neal, the man who could always make her laugh.

He slept in a cot by her side at St. John’s Medical Center in Los Angeles, Fawcett’s good friend Mela Murphy recalls.

“The night before she died, he was talking and talking, leading up to the story of when he first met Farrah,” Murphy says. “It was his way of telling her how much he loved her. She looked over at me and rolled her eyes, and then she smiled.”

  • For more on Farrah Fawcett’s final days, pick up a copy of this week’s PEOPLE, on stands Friday
Randee St. Nicholas

A few weeks before she died, O’Neal had proposed marriage.

“He never left her side, especially those last few months,” says Fawcett’s close friend Alana Stewart. “I think they would’ve married if she had made it because he asked her to marry him in the hospital and she said yes. But she took a turn for the worse. This was just a few weeks before the end, so perhaps it wasn’t realistic. The two of them had a deep bond and deep love. No matter what they went through, the ups and downs, he was the one she wanted by her side.”

On the morning of June 25, 2009, O’Neal took her hand as Farrah took her last breaths.

Fawcett’s Charlie’s Angel’s costar and longtime friend Jaclyn Smith also has warm memories of the once golden couple. “Ryan was the love of her life, and she, his,” she says. “Whether they had a fight or were back together, it was always Ryan. The father of your child. Connected forever.”