RHONY's Jill Zarin Shares Her Love Story with Late Husband Bobby: 'We Were Soulmates'
“He’s here. He’s here through his children. He’s here through his friends,” she tells PEOPLE exclusively after the Zarin Fabrics owner’s funeral. “I think it’s really going to take time to realize that he’s not here.”
Bobby died Saturday following a prolonged cancer battle. He was 71. The New York native is survived by Jill, his three children (Jonathan, David and Jennifer Zarin) stepdaughter Ally and grandchildren Micah, Lila and Asher.
He and Jill, 54, wed in January 2000. Throughout their marriage, she tells PEOPLE, “he never said no to me. I once asked him for something a little more outrageous and I said, ‘Can I have it?’ and he said, ‘You think I’m going to say no to you – and start now – when in 18 years I have never said no to you?'”
“We were soulmates,” she says. “Beyond. We could complete each other’s sentences. Bobby was always right.”
On Monday, the couple’s family and friends — including Jill’s former Real Housewives of New York City costars Bethenny Frankel, Sonja Morgan, Dorinda Medley and Ramona Singer; Million Dollar Matchmaker’s Patti Stanger; and Donald Trump‘s ex-wife Marla Maples — gathered inside a packed service at Riverside Memorial to honor Bobby.
Now, “I don’t know what I’m going to do without him because he always made sure I didn’t forget anything,” Jill says. “He would always close the cabinets or the refrigerator … he always finished everything I started.”
Bobby also supported all of her endeavors, including her time on reality TV.
“He loved watching me on red carpets. He loved being on the Housewives,” she says. “He gave us so many things that you couldn’t expect.”
Bobby was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2009 and went on to have his thyroid removed. He also underwent radioactive iodine treatment.
“The radioactive iodine usually kills off whatever undetectable cancer cells are left in your body after surgery,” he previously told PEOPLE. “We thought it was cured — and it usually is in about 93 percent of cases. But I wasn’t able to absorb the radioactive iodine. So it came back.”
The cancer wound up returning and spread to his lungs. In 2016, Jill revealed to PEOPLE that he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and underwent Gamma Knife Radiosurgery at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. His cancer took an “unexpected turn” last summer, and in July, Jill says she was told he had a week left to live. He successfully underwent chemotherapy but was back in the hospital in October, requiring a bypass. Bobby was in and out of treatment throughout the fall and winter, checking in one last time Jan. 8.
Despite her heartache, Jill didn’t want her husband to suffer anymore. One of Bobby’s doctors “said I fought so hard to keep Bobby alive — but that I also knew when to stop,” she says.
“When you weighed the options, that the pain wasn’t worth the gain. That a month [alive] wouldn’t be worth what he would have to go through to get that month. I had to make the tough decision and say, ‘Bobby needs to rest now. It’s time. He’s exhausted,'” she says. “And he will definitely always be watching over me.”