Before Kenny Rogers' 2020 death, he knew he didn't want his wife, Wanda, to be single forever after losing him.
In a new interview with People, Rogers' widow reveals that she's found love again in the three years since Rogers died — but she might never have been able to take that step if her husband hadn't encouraged her to do so, long before she needed his blessing.
Rogers was 28 years older than his wife, so he always knew that she was likely to outlive him, and he made it very clear to her that he didn't want her to stay faithful to his memory at the expense of her own happiness.
"He said, 'I'm not going to live forever. I want you to be happy,'" Wanda recalls. That day, they were watching TV, and Rogers hit the pause button and turned to her to have an important conversation about what was on his heart."
"'You're young. I want you to have a full life past me,'" Wanda remembers him saying. "And of course I was like, 'What? I don't want to talk about that. Turn the TV back on.'"
But after his death, as Wanda processed her grief and came to a point in healing where she was open to the idea of meeting someone new, those words helped her take that step without feeling guilty that she might be going against her late husband's wishes. Eventually, a longtime friend of the singer's wife introduced her to someone new, and Wanda's friendship with that man blossomed into a romantic relationship.
"It's been big shoes to step into after I was with this icon for all these years in a very special relationship," she acknowledges. "But it's really been an easy relationship."
"... It's funny because a few of my friends said, 'I just really feel like Kenny's a part of this somehow.' And I know that sounds weird. [But] he tells our kids, 'I'm not your dad. No one will ever take the place of your dad, but I'm here as your friend forever," Wanda continues.
Rogers and Wanda are parents to 19-year-old sons Justin and Jordan, and the singer's wife explains that she's hoping to teach them about healthy grieving, while still not letting a devastating loss keep them from living their lives.
"One of the big things is to show the boys that life goes on. And it does — I'm dating someone very special," she reflects. "Kenny gave me his very best and he wanted me to move on and be happy. That's a really big man to be able to say those words and mean it. I think it just shows the kind of guy he was."
PICTURES: See Inside Kenny Rogers' Staggering California Estate
Kenny Rogers developed a taste for fine living early in his success. His ultra-lavish mansion in Bel Air, Calif., an estate called Lionsgate, was opulent even by celebrity standards. The 11-bedroom, 17-bathroom home totals 23,988 square feet of space, and it sits on 1.63 acres of some of the most expensive real estate in California.
The lavish interior includes a master suite that encompasses more than 3,000 square feet, three separate living rooms, seven fireplaces, a billiards room, a formal study, a private 12-seat theater with leather seats, a climate-controlled wine room that opens onto a saltwater pool, three steam showers and a large dry sauna. The property also features an outdoor glass elevator that leads to a large ballroom party space with an attached guest suite and a professional-sized gym.
The exterior of the house is just as lavish, including an outdoor living area with heated floors and a fully equipped bar, a tennis court with stadium lighting and a viewing area, a hot tub and extensive landscaping. Realtor.com
calls Lionsgate the "most prestigious luxury estate" in Bel Air, boasting "possibly the best views in Los Angeles."
According to Business Insider
, Rogers purchased the estate in the 1970s, and he added the lions to the gate and christened the home Lionsgate. He sold it in 1983 for $5.8 million, according to Variety
, and the property most recently sold in 2015 for a staggering $46.25 million.
PICTURES: See Inside Kenny Rogers' Jaw-Dropping Atlanta Mansion
Kenny Rogers' 6-bedroom, 6-bathroom, 6,9991-square-foot mansion in the high-dollar area of Buckhead in Atlanta was absolutely spectacular. Highlights include a striking two-story entryway and sweeping staircase leading to very formal living and dining rooms. There is also a large eat-in kitchen with booth seating, and the great room features a 20-foot ceiling.
Other amenities include a massive upstairs master suite that includes its own fireplace, separate sitting room, luxurious bathroom and a massive walk-in closet. The luxurious home also features guest suites, a screening room, a full-sized bar, a game room and more. Ornate arched doors, oversized windows throughout and stunning trims, light fixtures and ceilings add to the luxurious feel of the stately home, which Rogers listed for $4,495,000 in 2019.
PICTURES: See Inside Kenny Rogers' Palatial Atlanta Estate
Rogers' 13,000-square-foot estate outside of Atlanta featured 6 bedrooms, 8 full and 4 half bathrooms.
The opulent mansion features wrought iron entry gates and a spacious two-story foyer with matching curved staircases, as well as elegant and very formal living and dining rooms. There's an enormous eat-in kitchen with a massive double island, along with 10 fireplaces scattered throughout the residence. The mind-boggling manor also boasts a conservatory, a combination family room and game room with its own full bar and a private movie theater with stadium seating.
The mansion's gigantic master suite comprises two walk-in closets with private dressing rooms, as well as a vast formal bathroom with brass fixtures and marble floors. There's also a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment above the garage, which could serve as extra space for visiting family or live-in staff members.
Rogers purchased the luxurious Mediterranean estate in 2012 for $1.5 million. He sold it for $2.383 million in 2018.
See Inside Kenny Rogers' Staggering California Mansion: