It’s been five years since the Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds passed away at the age of 84, but she is still missed by millions of fans around the world to this day. Now, her friend and fellow actress Ruta Lee is speaking out to remember the iconic Singin’ In The Rain star.
“She was like a sister to me,” Lee told Fox News. “I loved her tremendously and I still do.”
“She was watching me when I first became a Thalian and she was president,” Lee added. “She taught me right from the beginning, she said, ‘You can go out into the world and you can ask anybody for anything so long as it isn’t for yourself. If you’re asking for somebody else, you’ll get it.’ And that has worked for us. We’ve raised many, many millions of dollars with our devotion to mental health.”
Reynolds spent over sixty years working with The Thalians, which is an organization that focuses on mental health care.
“I felt very connected to it right from the beginning,” Lee explained. “When the opportunity came to support mental health, especially of returning vets who were in very bad shape, it seemed incumbent upon me to do so. I’ve always had a very strong feeling for America. I was born in Canada and I’m the daughter of Lithuanian parents. So I understand how blessed we are to be Americans and how important it is to us. Americans are the most generous people on the face of this Earth. And it has been so important for me not to forget our veterans.”
Lee went on to say that she has never forgotten the lessons Reynolds taught her about giving back.
“Debbie Reynolds was the girl next door that everybody adored,” she said. “She was truly one of the most loving, generous people I’ve ever known. She was one of the very few people in Hollywood who put their money where their mouth is. She didn’t just talk about doing something good. She always acted upon it. She was truly an eternal Girl Scout. There wasn’t anything that she wouldn’t do for someone in need.”
Both Lee and Reynolds took part in USO tours, with the latter doing so during the Korean War.
“The USO tours took me to a lot of strange, wonderful places,” Lee recalled. “I mean, everywhere from Greenland to the Philippines. Fortunately, I did not have to go into war zones or anything like that. But my friends like Ann-Margret, Debbie Reynolds and Connie Stevens went into a lot of war zones. I remember I would visit hospitals and meet wounded warriors. It has been so important to us to give these remarkable men and women hope. And Debbie wouldn’t hesitate.”
“These returning veterans are beautiful people who are willing to put their lives on the line for America every day,” Lee added. “And then they come back, either broken in body or broken in spirit. And somehow they fall through the cracks. We forget about them. And that’s just so wrong. America has the best of everything and they deserve the best of everything. So it has always been our goal to encourage healing the mind, the soul and spirit of our returning men and women.”