Kathie Lee Gifford bid farewell to the Today show on Friday after 11 years

By Natalie Stone
April 05, 2019 03:13 PM

Kathie Lee Gifford received an outpouring of love on her last day at the Today show.

After 11 years at the network, Gifford, 65, said goodbye as the host of the show’s popular fourth hour on Friday, bidding farewell to her co-host and close friend Hoda Kotb and the rest of the Today crew.

During her final broadcast, the show honored the journalist with surprise performances and appearances from celebrity guests, including Dean Cain, Ryan Eggold and her good friend Barry Manilow, who performed a beautiful rendition of “Can’t Smile Without You.”

Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford

RELATED: Kathie Lee Gifford Says Goodbye to the Today Show After 11 Years: ‘I Feel Great’

Tributes also poured in for Gifford from across the country, with celebrities sharing sweet posts on social media in her honor.

“.@KathieLGifford, it’s been an incredible run,” tweeted The Ellen DeGeneres Show host Ellen DeGeneres. “Thanks for taking us along for the ride. You’re one of a kind. #CheersToKLG.”

“We will miss you @KathieLGifford!! Let’s get together and write a song in Nashville!” said country musician Lee Brice.

Actress Olivia Newton-John shared on Twitter: “Cheers @KathieLGifford I will miss you in the mornings! Wishing you joy, good health and success in your new ventures! Love and light, Olivia @klgandhoda @TODAYshow.”

Said talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz: “What a legend. @KathieLGifford, your inspiring nature has touched so many throughout the years on @klgandhoda. You’ll be missed, but I know there’s much greatness still in store for you! #CheersToKLG.

Roma Downey, Maria Menounos and Andy Cohen also expressed their love and gratitude for Gifford on social media, with the Watch What Happens Live host tweeting, “It’s the last day of @klgandhoda! Gonna miss Kathie Lee!!!!!!” alongside multiple crying face and wine glass emojis.

RELATED: A Look Back at Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb‘s Best Moments on the Today Show

Former first daughter Jenna Bush Hager, who is set to step in as co-host alongside Kotb on April 8, also shared her adoration for Gifford in a loving tweet.

“I adore @KathieLGifford! My kids adore her. She has taught me about the power of humor, and steadfast faith,” said Bush Hager, 37. “I’ll miss her laugh—and her making me laugh…again…and again and again. Love you, KLG.”

Weeks before her exit from NBC, Gifford sat down with PEOPLE to discuss her next season of life, including her move to Nashville, where she will be devoting her time to pursuing her film and music career.

“The work that I want to do isn’t here anymore,” she said, gesturing around her dressing room at the show’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza studio. “I am an artist, I’m an actress, I’m a writer, I’m a songwriter, a director now. That’s the stuff that feeds my soul and I know that I’m running out of time to do those things.”

The past few years have been a difficult time for Gifford, who lost both her husband and her mother.

In 2015, her husband of 29 years, former NFL player and broadcaster Frank Gifford, died at 84. In 2017, her mother Joan died in her sleep at age 87. With her children Cody, 29, and Cassidy, 26, grown and living in Los Angeles, “I experienced huge changes,” Gifford said.

Frank Gifford, Cody Gifford, Cassidy Gifford and Kathie Lee Gifford
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

“I’ve become a widow, an orphan and an empty-nester all at once. There’s nothing really keeping me in this part of the country anymore except for my job,” she said about New York City.

In addition to a girls’ trip this weekend in Nashville with Kotb, Gifford is looking forward to setting down roots in Tennessee, where she’s already bought a house.

RELATED: Regis Philbin Honors Kathie Lee Gifford’s Last Day at Today and Remembers Their ‘Great Times’

Kathie Lee Gifford
Brian Doben

“Even if you’re just having a dinner party there, invariably people end up at your piano or taking your guitar off the wall, and next thing you know, you’ve written a song and you’re in the studio the next week doing a demo,” she said.

“I want to live among people that love my love of music, good music,” said Gifford, who added, “I want to live in peace and a peaceful place where people come over to my house, or I go to theirs, and all we want to do is just share life together. Write a good song.”