Doris Day turned 97 on April 3 — and she made a point to celebrate with one of her favorite musicians.
Entertainer Michael Feinstein discloses to PEOPLE he was welcome to partake in the festivities with Day in what turned into their first face-to-face meeting notwithstanding a correspondence of quite a while.
“Her longtime manager drove me to her house, which is a few miles from Carmel-by-the-Sea, and I arrived at a 14-acre paradise that looked like Doris Day should live there,” says Feinstein, 62.
Of her home, he says, “It was idyllic. I was struck by the fact that this was a 97-year-old woman and she was still so connected to the world.”
The two hit it off and were immediately “consumed with two subjects: animals and music,” which Feinstein says were “the two most important things in her life.”
“She would say, ‘I just love animals’ — and it was so wonderful to see that her fervor for other creatures had not diminished and she was so concerned for the welfare of creatures and the welfare of the planet,” Feinstein includes.
Day had a fruitful singing career also, in spite of the fact that Feinstein says she was “very humble and modest” about it.
“She never talked [about] or listened to her own recordings because she was so tough on herself,” says Feinstein. “For decades, she would not listen to her own work because she feared it would not be good enough and then when she did, she was sincerely surprised they were good. She was the one person who did not know what everyone else knew.”
As an extraordinary gift to Day, Feinstein sang for her at her home, amusing her with songs, for example, “My Romance,” which Day sang in the 1962 version of the musical Jumbo.
“She was delighted when I’d sing her songs and she would mouth the words,” he says. “She was happy and content and living her life on her terms and surrounded by her close friends.”
Feinstein additionally sang her rendition of the 1967 melody “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” just as different hits of hers.
“She was encouraging me and snapping her fingers and nodding and swaying and kept saying, ‘more’ and ‘more,’” he recalls. “It was the most thrilling command performance I’ve ever given, and I’ve performed for presidents and royalty, but performing for her was truly thrilling.”
Day died in the early hours of Monday morning at 97 years old.
Her business manager and dear companion Bob Bashara disclosed to PEOPLE Day “was fine at her birthday party.”
“For her birthday event, she was in good spirits,” Bashara said. Shortly after, Day “developed a cough and it turned into bronchitis and she was briefly hospitalized,” he continued.
“When she came home, she began to decline and was given hospice care,” he said.
“[When she died] there were some very close friends and loved ones who were with her,” Bashara said. “She was surrounded by a few loved ones.”
Bashara included Day “died peacefully” after a satisfying life working on films and TV shows.
“She lived by her most famous song, ‘Que Sera, Sera.’ That was her belief. Whatever will be, will be, and there is a purpose for everything that happens, and you need to get on with her life,” explained Bashara. “She always looked forward and looked for the good in whatever happened.”