Suzanne Somers died Sunday, one day shy of her 77th birthday.
“We were in bed together and her breathing was erratic, and I had been talking to her for hours,” Hamel, 87, said. “There was no response except when I kissed her, she responded, and then around 5 o’clock in the morning, she was gone.”
Although her cancer had returned in July, Hamel said that just three days before she died — after spending six weeks with specialists in Chicago — she seemed to be doing better.
“She was eating and was, you know, taking her medicine,” he said.
But he says a few days after they had returned home, things took a turn.
“All of a sudden she wasn’t responding and she wasn’t eating and she wasn’t taking her meds,” he said tearfully. “As I know her so well I thought, ‘I wonder if I should call 911?’ And I knew that she wouldn’t want that and that she did not want to go to a hospital.”
Hamel says that over the next few days, he sat by her side.
“I talked to her for hours, every night, and I assumed she could hear me because her lips responded. Hopefully, she was understanding what I was saying.”
Adding, “I’m just kind of shuffling along right now. Fortunately, we have a great family and they were all here.”
The couple met in 1969 when Hamel was hosting ABC’s “The Anniversary Game,” and Somers was a prize model.
“I was standing with the crew and the staff having a final meeting before we started shooting the series and I saw this incredible woman standing across the stage and I thought I have to go over there, which I did,” he said. “And I’ve never been good with come-on lines, and I’m not going to tell you my come-on line because it was just really stupid, but it worked!”
The two married in 1977 and even become business partners. Hamel recalled how he immediately began advising Somers following failed negotiations with her “Three’s Company” contract in 1980, which led to her being fired from the hit show.
“I remember I took her by the shoulders and I said, ‘Suzanne, we’re going to make this work for us,’ and within a very short time, we had a plan,” he said. “And we brought on some people who I knew were experts and who totally understood branding.”
Despite Somers’ devastation at leaving behind a show she loved, Hamel says they poured their energy into her best-selling books, beauty line, several Las Vegas residencies and their eventual best-selling ThighMaster.
Hamel says although his wife went on to land another hit TV role in “Step by Step” from 1991 to 1998, her role as Chrissy Snow held a special place.
“She said to me when she got [‘Three’s Company’], ‘dumb blondes are irritating, you just want to get away from them. I want to create a dumb blonde character that I love. And if I love it, everybody else will love it as well.’ And so that was it.”
Hamel said tearfully that he hopes his wife will be remembered for being a good mother and helping those around her.
“We wouldn’t have this family today if it wasn’t for her,” he said. “She did things that no one would know about. I would hear her on the phone talking people down and ensuring everything’s going to be OK. And she tried to respond to everybody.”
Somers is survived by her husband, a son, three granddaughters and two stepchildren. She will be buried in a private ceremony later this week.
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