Maksim Chmerkovskiy Honors ‘DWTS’ Partner Kirstie Alley: ‘I Thought You’d Be Around Forever’

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“You were one of the most unique people I have ever met and easily one of the brightest moments of my personal and professional life,” the dance pro wrote in a touching tribute on Instagram

Kirstie Alley, a former partner of Maksim Chmerkovskiy on Dancing with the Stars, passed away on Monday at the age of 71.

Chmerkovskiy, 42, shared a picture of himself and Alley from their time on the long-running reality competition series in a sincere Instagram post early on Tuesday.

“My dearest Kirstie,” he began in his caption, “We haven’t spoken lately and I’ll tell you everything when I finally see you, but for now I want to say that I love you very much and I wish you the most peaceful rest.”

“You were one of the most unique people I have ever met and easily one of the brightest moments of my personal and professional life,” the dance pro continued.

On season 12 of DWTS in 2011, Chmerkovskiy and Alley made their debut together and finished in second place. A year later, during the all-star episode of season 15, Chmerkovskiy and Alley reunited on the dance floor. The two came in at position seven.

“From Maude to DJ Lil Buttercup you were always all in for life,” Chmerkovskiy wrote in his tribute. “As I’m typing this, memories of our time together rush to my head, I remember how absolutely wild you were and I start to tear up. Something you’d absolutely hate. And now I can’t help but smile because I remembered exactly what you wanted me to say at your funeral. Don’t think I can do it here…”

Despite their close relationship, Alley and Chmerkovskiy also had a public argument over her comments about the Ukraine war earlier this year. She had written, “I don’t know what’s real or fake in this war. “So I won’t be commenting. I’ll pray instead.”

Chmerkovskiy responded by calling Alley out on Instagram. Chmerkovskiy was present in Ukraine when Russia first invaded his nation of origin in February.

“We haven’t spoken in a while, but I clearly remember being right next to you while you were organizing trucks of aid during Hurricane Sandy and I remember all that you were saying to me about situations where innocent are suffering,’ he wrote, alongside a screenshot of her tweet.

“That same energy is needed right now,” Chmerkovskiy added. “No one needs your prayer if you don’t know what’s real or fake.”

However, Chmerkovskiy insisted that there was more to his and Alley’s story than what the public had seen in his tribute on Tuesday.

“Some of our relationships is heavily documented. Most of it is known to a select few. All of it was like a wild rollercoaster,” he said.

“I thought you’d be around forever,” he said. “I wish we spoke often Thank you for everything. I love you Kirstie Alley.”

It seems as though both partners felt the same way. Alley was so affected by Chmerkovskiy that she included a chapter on him in her book The Art of Men (I Prefer Mine al Dente). In 2012, she told PEOPLE, “The book is about how males have changed my life.” “Each chapter has art as its name. Only he understands the art of a name. ‘The Art of Maks,’ as he falls under a unique category. He is a unique person.”

Alley’s children, True and Lillie Parker, announced the actress had died from cancer. “We are sad to inform you that our incredible, fierce, and loving mother has passed away after a battle with cancer, only recently discovered,” they said in a statement.

“She was surrounded by her closest family and fought with great strength, leaving us with a certainty of her never-ending joy of living and whatever adventures lie ahead,” they continued. “As iconic as she was on screen, she was an even more amazing mother and grandmother.”

The siblings added how their mother’s “zest and passion for life, her children, grandchildren, and her many animals, not to mention her eternal joy of creating, were unparalleled and leave us inspired to live life to the fullest just as she did.”

They also thanked the “incredible team of doctors and nurses” at the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Their statement concluded with True and Lillie thanking Alley’s fans, sharing, “We thank you for your love and prayers and ask that you respect our privacy at this difficult time.”