The love that never died: How Patrick and Lisa faced all of life's challenges together

Patrick Swayze: a life in pictures

Handsome, talented and by his own admission slightly cocky, Patrick Swayze could have had his pick of girls. But there was only one that he ever wanted.

From the moment the actor, then 19, saw Lisa Niemi, four years his junior, in his mother's dance class she was the one for him.

“All these girls were studying with my mum and I used to go and check them out in their leotards – it was like being in a candy store," he recalled.

"She didn’t buy any of my nonsense. We spent half our dates in total silence as she wouldn’t talk to me if she thought I was putting on an act.”

In 1975, five years after meeting, the young lovers tied the knot in the backyard of her Houston home.

Unlike many Hollywood marriages before theirs, the union survived everything showbiz could throw at them and plenty more – including success, disappointment and his alcholism.

His beautiful, vital wife proved an inspiration when Patrick became a worldwide phenomenon with the release of 1987 chick flick Dirty Dancing.

All the sensual dance routines in the film were practised with her. He also wrote She's Like The Wind on the soundtrack in her honour.

"I just felt at that time that I'm very, very lucky to have a woman who thinks I hung the moon," he said.

When the roles tailed off, they began raising horses on their ranch. It was here that the couple - who were never able to have children - fought his cancer together.

She kept him laughing, flew him to chemo using her pilot's license, and watched over him when, at the age of 57, he breathed his last.

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