Last month, waiting to be interviewed about the Unabomber, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz asked Couric, 41, how her husband was doing. "There were tears in her eyes," Dershowitz recalls. "It was obvious that the situation was not a good one. But as soon as the camera came on, she was incredibly professional."
On Jan. 26 cohost Matt Lauer sadly told viewers the reason Katie was absent from the show. Two days earlier, with Couric at his side, Monahan, 42, had died at Manhattan's Lenox Hill Hospital, not far from the apartment the couple shared with daughters Elinor, 6, and Caroline, 2.
While his widow remained in seclusion (a Catholic funeral was set for Jan. 28), friends remembered Monahan fondly. "He was a decent, decent man," says Dershowitz. "You could always count on him to be fair." And charming. A native of Manhasset, N.Y., and an '85 graduate of Georgetown Law School, Monahan met Couric, then a reporter for WRC-TV, at a Washington party in 1988. "She was mad about him," says Wendy Walker Whitworth, a close friend and senior executive producer of Larry King Live.
The couple wed a year later, and in 1993, two years after Couric was named Today cohost, Monahan followed her to New York City (joining a local firm). Soon he was providing legal commentary on NBC and its cable kin, CNBC and MSNBC. Last April, Monahan became one of the 130,000 Americans to be diagnosed each year with colon cancer. When former O.J. lawyer Barry Scheck met his friend Monahan for lunch last November, "I could tell that he was in great pain," says Scheck, "but he had terrific courage. He was talking about working."
Couric, who has not announced when she will return to Today, is coping well, say friends. "She called me to ask if I would give one of the eulogies," says Geraldo Rivera. "It was punctuated with tears and some sobbing, but she is a courageous woman and she loved him deeply."