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Dating advice from the first lady? Katie Couric remembers friend Nancy Reagan

Nancy Reagan was a beloved first lady, noted for her no nonsense manner, taking the lead in causes close to her heart and, of course, for her devotion to her husband. But there was another side to Reagan that the public never really saw — the confidante, the adviser, the "girlfriend."

Former TODAY anchor and friend Katie Couric visited the show Monday to talk about the Nancy Reagan she knew personally.

Couric first met Reagan in 1998, just months after her own husband, Jay Monahan, died following a battle with colon cancer.

"I think, as a result, she felt very protective," Couric explained. "She was always so caring and kind and sweet. That began a several-year friendship where we would see each other and she would write me notes."

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That's how she came to know the warm and personable side of the former first lady.

"People thought of her as icy and overly protective of her husband — and I think she was protective of her husband at the risk of her own reputation — but she was just really fun and nice and fun to be with," Couric recalled. "She loved to dish. She was like a girlfriend. She liked to know what was going on with everybody. She loved to gossip."

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And she loved to give advice, which Couric came to appreciate.

"I think after Jay passed away, she was sort of interested in who I was seeing, and if that person was appropriate or not," she said. "I saw her in 2011 — I did an event at the Reagan Library — and told her that a relationship had recently ended with someone who was considerably younger than I was."

Reagan's take on that news? A blunt and funny zinger about the drawbacks of a younger man: "Well, dear, sometimes you have to talk."

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But funny or not, Couric always valued what Reagan had to share.

"She dispensed very good advice, I think," she said, adding, "throughout our friendship at least."

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