Gifford appeared on the “Today” show Monday to discuss her longtime friend, who starred opposite her on their daytime talk show “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee” from 1985 until 2000. She revealed that the last time she saw Philbin was at a laugh-filled visit to her Connecticut home along with his wife, Joy.
“I was just so grateful the Lord gave me that final time," Gifford said. "And it was so precious because when I talked to Joy the day that I found out right after he had passed, she said, 'Kathie he hadn't laughed in a long, long time.' She said, 'I was so worried about him.'"
"I think he was like Frank. He was just ready, you know? ... And she said, 'The day that we came to have lunch with you was the last time I heard him laugh.' That will forever be a precious gift the Lord gave me, that I got to laugh again with one of my best friends in all my lifetime."
Although she was happy to pick right back up where she left off with Philbin, she noticed his age starting to show during their last visit, giving her a subtle clue that it was time to brace herself for his passing.
"I sensed much more fragility than I'd seen in him since the last time in January out in Los Angeles," Gifford added. "We sat right here on my screened porch, and we laughed ourselves sick. We always picked up right where we left off. ... After they left I just thought to myself, 'Lord, is that the last time I'm going to see my friend?' Because he was failing, I could tell."
Philbin’s family confirmed the news of his death in a statement to Fox News on Saturday.
“We are deeply saddened to share that our beloved Regis Philbin passed away last night of natural causes, one month shy of his 89th birthday," the statement read.
"His family and friends are forever grateful for the time we got to spend with him -- for his warmth, his legendary sense of humor, and his singular ability to make every day into something worth talking about. We thank his fans and admirers for their incredible support over his 60-year career and ask for privacy as we mourn his loss."
Gifford previously paid tribute to her longtime co-star on Instagram shortly after news of his death was confirmed. While Gifford, 66, admitted there are simply "no words to fully express" her love for her "precious friend," she called his life "legendary."
"I simply adored him and every day with him was a gift. We spent 15 years together bantering and bickering and laughing ourselves silly -- a tradition and a friendship we shared up to this very day. I smile knowing somewhere in Heaven, at this very moment, he's making someone laugh," she wrote.
Gifford's statement continued: "It brings me great comfort knowing that he had a personal relationship with his Lord that brought him great peace. I send all the love in my heart to Joy, to his children, to the rest of his family and to the innumerable people he touched over his legendary life. There has never been anyone like him. And there never will be."