By Ken Molestina

Follow CBSDFW.COM: Facebook | Twitter

FORT WORTH (CBS11) – Fort Worth dance instructor and owner of Bruce Lea Dance Factory, 67-year old Bruce Lea, has fond memories of iconic actress Debbie Reynolds, who died at the age of 84 on Thursday.

Lea told CBS11, they met in 1973 in New York when Reynolds starred in the revival of the Broadway production, Irene.

Lea was a dancer on the show at the time and said he and Reynolds formed a friendship that would last a lifetime.

“I love her like a mother,” Lea said.  “She was like a second mother to me.”

For years the two performed side by side throughout the world and in Las Vegas.

Lea said he was known as her loyal and trusty dancer who was never more than an arms-length away from her at countless on-stage performances.

He saidhe was shocked and devastated to hear of Reynolds’ daughter actress Carrie Fisher’s death, and a day later when Reynolds suffered an apparent stroke, he said strangely enough he wasn’t surprised.

He recalled a conversation he had with other mutual friends after hearing the news.

“I mentioned to them if anything is going to kill Debbie this will probably do it, and sure enough the next morning that’s when she passed on,” said Lea.

Lea said it was the support from Reynolds that led to him establishing his dance school in Fort Worth, and for that he will always be grateful.

For the time being, as he mourns the death of the woman he called a second mother, pictures and posters are what he has to reflect on Reynold’s iconic legacy.

“It’s the knowing that she is not here… that she is gone. That’s so hard.”

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)