Kathie Lee Gifford said goodbye to the Today Show Friday after more than a decade on the NBC morning show with Hoda Kotb. Throughout her tenure on the show, the two hosts became close friends and often leaned on each others' shoulders in tearjerker moments.
Kotb and Gifford have been hosting the wine-soaked third-hour of the Today Show since 2008. Gifford, 65, previously hosted Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee alongside Regis Philbin from 1985 to 2000.
Gifford is moving on to focus on her acting career. She filmed three movies in 2018, including the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries entries Then Came You and A Godwink Christmas. She told USA Today she has seven more in development, including four follow-ups to Then Came You, which she filmed with Craig Ferguson in Scotland.
During their 11 years, Kotb and Gifford shared plenty of emotional moments, and here's a look at some of the most memorable.
Photo credit: NBC
During her tenure on the Today Show, Gifford's life was rocked by loss twice. The first time came in August 2015, when her husband, retired NFL legend and broadcaster Frank Gifford, died of natural causes at 84. Kotb paid tribute to Gifford, whom she was supporting in her moment of grief.
"She is remarkably strong, I'm in awe of her even today," Kotb said in a tribute broadcast by NBC. "Frank will be beloved by family and friends."
Gifford's mother, Joan Epstein, died in September 2017 at age 87. When Gifford returned to the show after Epstein's death, she thanked Kotb for her support and assured her colleague she will always be there in her time of need.
"Sitting next to you, you gave me strength and comfort," Gifford said while the two held hands. "I'm always safe here with you."
In April 2017, Kotb returned to Today after adopting Haley Joy and it was a touching moment. Kotb thanked Gifford, who has two children herself, for supporting her journey to motherhood.
"You know, when you're 52 and you do something like this, it's sort of like, you waited so long, every single moment is something. Even the worst moments ... I remember I had a really terrible day ... and I was literally holding her, and I was kind of upset because I was just having a moment, and I said, You know what? I'm going to say thank you right now because I would've begged, begged for a day like that," Kotb said through tears. "So, I'll take the bad ones, because I would have begged for that kind of day if I could just have a child."
Although this was not during a Today Show episode, Gifford's tribute to Kotb at an American Cancer Society in October 2017 was an unforgettable moment. During the event, Kotb, who fought breast cancer and had a double mastectomy, received the Mother of the Year honor at the event.
"I fell absolutely, madly in love with this life force called Hoda, who just made me a better person," Gifford said during her speech. "The only thing bigger than her smile is her heart. Hoda Kotb is my Egyptian sun goddess. You have to be very careful around Hoda because she's the most contagious human being on the planet. She will infect you. She will make you happy. She will make you start singing really crappy songs. That's what she does. She can't help it. She just shows up and the room changes."
At the end, Gifford called Kotb "one of my dearest, dearest friends who is one of the finest human beings I've ever met in my life," notes Entertainment Tonight.
In April 2018, the two celebrated 10 years together. Of course, tears were shed, especially when Gifford recalled how she first hit it off with Kotb. She said the two went to lunch and stayed at the restaurant until they were kicked out.
"We seemed like the odd couple, we come from different worlds, we certainly look different ... but what we discovered is we have everything in common that was important," Gifford said. "...We just felt so comfortable with each other right from the very beginning."
In December 2018, Gifford announced she was leaving Today. Although she still had a few months to go before her last episode, the moment still brought Kotb to tears.
"The minute you stepped into my life with both feet, everything changed," Kotb told Gifford. "You chose me and that's how it started. I was thinking about everything good that's happened in my life has happened since you came."
"Everything happened. … How does one person step in your life and change it like that? And you did that for me," Kotb added.
Gifford said the two became more than just on-air partners quickly.
"You start sharing life, and your friendship shows up on the air," Gifford said. "We weren't colleagues very long. We became friends and now we're going to be friends for the rest of our lives."
On Monday, Kotb and Gifford hosted their final "Favorite Things" segment together, and it was an emotional roller coaster. At the end, Gifford presented Kotb with a parting gift - a beautifully drawn portrait of Kotb holding her daughter by artist Sydney Clawson. At the bottom, Clawson wrote "My joy is non-negotiable," a phrase Kotb coined after she adopted Haley Joy.
This was not an emotional moment that ended in tears of sadness, but tears of joy. At the start of a 2012 episode, Kotb opened up by revealing that she already spilled wine on her dress before cameras even began rolling. Moments before going live, a glass broke and spilled all over her dress. Nevertheless, the two continued and Kotb did not have a chance to change her outfit.