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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Senior stage manager Mark Traub has been the heart, soul, and most importantly, the laugh behind the scenes on TODAY for more than 35 years.

He found himself in front of the cameras for the first time on Friday when the TODAY anchors gave him a sweet goodbye as he walks off stage one last time into retirement.

"You are so much a part of the heart and soul of this place,'' Savannah Guthrie told him. "I think every single one of us has a story about how you made us feel like we were OK and we belonged and we could be here, and that is huge."

Around Studio 1A, Traub was known for his big laugh. Generations of TODAY fans likely heard it off-camera during funny moments on the show.

"He makes us all feel funnier than we are,'' Hoda Kotb said.

"I'm not gonna be anywhere nearly as funny as I seem without your laugh,'' Al Roker added.

"My life's dream came true when I was 21 years old," Traub said of his 40-year tenure at NBC. Nathan Congleton/TODAY

On Friday's show, Traub was treated to a video montage of thanks and congratulations from a group of current and former TODAY talent, including Savannah, Hoda, Al, Carson Daly, Dylan Dreyer, Sheinelle Jones, Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw, Craig Melvin, Kathie Lee Gifford and Jenna Bush Hager.

A poignant photo, shot by TODAY photographer Nathan Congleton, of the senior stage manager in his element was signed by everyone and presented to him. They also brought out cake and champagne to commemorate the big day.

"I don't know what we're going to do without you,'' Savannah said. "Well, I know we're gonna look at the wrong camera, we're gonna talk at the wrong time, and we're gonna laugh a lot less."

Traub first became a page at NBC more than 40 years ago before joining TODAY in 1983.

"This has been the only place I've known as home for two-thirds of my life," he said. "My life's dream came true when I was 21 years old. It's just been amazing to have the opportunity to be part of something that is so vital to this country as this show is."

Traub (with Savannah and Hoda at the royal wedding in 2018) has been a beloved presence behind the scenes since joining TODAY in 1983. Nathan Congleton/TODAY

After about 9,230 early wake-ups during his career with TODAY, Traub is looking forward to spending time with his wife, Lisa, and turning off the alarm clock.

"I'm gonna learn how to sleep,'' he said. "And I'm gonna watch you guys every day."