Speaking with PEOPLE prior to the show, Moore couldn’t help but feel elated that she was going to be honored with the Life Achievement award amongst her peers on Jan. 29, 2012 in Los Angeles.
“I was stunned,” she told PEOPLE of learning she was going to be honored. “I didn’t think of myself ever as having achieved anything of particular merit, but happy to do so.”
“I just know that my father would be very proud, and my mother too, but especially my father because achievement was everything to him,” she continued.”
When asked about her favorite memories onset with former onscreen love interest, Dick Van Dyke (now 91), Moore had nothing but praise for the longtime actor.
“Dick was a very generous person and he just encouraged me to believe in myself and take the reins and go with whatever my soul was encouraging me to do. He’s just a very special wonderful human being,” she said. “I remember fudging [my age] because Dick had said, ‘Isn’t she too young for me?’ and I didn’t want to lose it based on him thinking I was too young.”
“So I think I may have said 23 when actually I was 22,” the actress recalled. “It was the most supportive relationship that I’ve ever had. He was always right there encouraging me to believe in myself and to remind me of the funny moments that I was able to come up with as well as the other karate kids who were in there with no problem whatsoever.”
Moore, who was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 33, died on Wednesday.
Her longtime rep issued a statement to PEOPLE: “Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine. A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile.”
- With BRITTANY KING