He was always her champion. Céline Dion’s husband, René Angélil, died at the age of 73 on Thursday, January 14, after battling throat cancer, his rep confirms to Us Weekly.
Angélil and Dion, 47, first met when he became her music manager in 1980. (She was 12 and he was 38 at the time.) The couple married in December 1994 and renewed their vows in 2000. In 2014, Angélil stepped down as her manager.
The famed “My Heart Will Go On” singer often spoke openly about her fertility struggles throughout their marriage. The couple welcomed their first child, son René-Charles, now 14, in 2001. Twins Nelson and Eddy, now 5, arrived in 2010. (Dion later revealed that she was supposed to have triplets, but she miscarried one of the babies.)
In recent years, the Canadian singer put her music career on hold to take care of her longtime love as his health began to deteriorate. (He was first diagnosed with cancer in 1998.) She took a hiatus from her Las Vegas residency in August 2014, and made a triumphant — and emotional — return to the stage last August.
“I’m trying really hard to show my children that sickness and things happen in life. You cannot be crying and be depressed and consistently talk about, ‘Oh my God,'” Dion told Us and other reporters at the time. “Unfortunately there’s a lot of people struggling with battles. When you have family around I think it helps tremendously.”
Read on for more of Dion’s sweet quotes about their love and relationship:
On Falling for Renee
“So maybe at 17, 18 years old, my feelings started to change for him. I kind of saw him differently. Make a long story short, [my mom] saw it coming too because she’s a mom — mom knows best,” Dion told Access Hollywood in September 2013. “She had no choice. Love won.”
On Their Loving Marriage
“René and I had our tough times. It wasn’t always easy,” the singer told Vegas Deluxe’s Robin Leach in July 2013. “We laugh. We joke. We kid each other. We want our marriage to last forever. Talk over everything and you’ll find you are still on the honeymoon. Communication — it’s the most important. It’s the secret.”
On Renewing Their Vows
“For the year 2000, we renewed our vows, just to prove again that we were right!” Dion told Access Hollywood in 2013. She added of having more children: “I’m not saying I’m going to have another one. But it’s hard as a mom to say, turn the page, the chapter is done. Because the machine is still working. So there is hope for that. But do we want it? It’s just hard to convince [yourself] to say no more.”
On Balancing Work and Motherhood
“I’ve worked hard for nearly 30 years, and I feel like only now is it paying off in terms of happiness. But the only reward that would mean anything to me is my children. There’s nothing that can top being a mother,” Dion said in November 2013, via the Daily Mail. “I would like more but I don’t know if it could happen. I want the twins and me to have quality time. It’s selfish to keep wanting more, although I would love a girl. Imagine all the shopping, the jewelry, the shoes, the dresses I could give to her.”
On René’s Perseverance
“René is a champion. I loved him all my life. I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I am his favorite singer and he wants to see me back on the stage singing again!” Dion told Taste of Life in July 2015. “Whatever life imposes — sickness, or whatever, you don’t have a choice. This is life, this is nature. But you do have the choice on how you’re going to go through this.”
On René’s Cancer Fight
“He doesn’t stop amazing me. I’m being heard through my interviews, through my songs. This is his time to be heard. This is his way. It’s going to be his way and it’s going to be the way he wants it to be,” Dion said in August 2015, during her first show after the hiatus. She looked at the camera: “My love, we love you. Lots of strength tonight. Promise me something. Just enjoy. Just enjoy. Just let it go. We love you.”
On René’s Loving Support
“He’s been there for me all my life, and I’ve been there for him all my life,” she said in August 2015. “There’s a part of me that never really left the stage. I wanted to be there, but I needed to be someplace else, which was much more important at that time. To be by his side. To be by my family.”
On René’s Last Wish
Dion opened up about Angélil’s illness during an interview with USA Today. “Sometimes he just wants me to enter into a different place with him,” she said in August 2015. “I’ll say, ‘You’re scared? I understand. Talk to me about it.’ And René says to me, ‘I want to die in your arms.’ Ok, fine, I’ll be there, you’ll die in my arms.”
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