Iris Apfel’s Close Friend Recalls Funny Walmart and Paris Outings: ‘Iris Had No Idea She Was So Famous’ (Exclusive)

Bruce Sutka reminisces to PEOPLE about his fondest memories of the fashion icon, including one of Apfel’s final wishes

<p>Taylor Hill/Getty ; ADRIEL REBOH/Patrick McMullan via Getty</p> Iris Apfel and Bruce Sutka, her close friend of 30 years

Taylor Hill/Getty ; ADRIEL REBOH/Patrick McMullan via Getty

Iris Apfel and Bruce Sutka, her close friend of 30 years

Celebrities and close friends of fashion icon Iris Apfel, who died on Friday at the age of 102, are continuing to remember her colorful life with tributes and memorable stories.

Bruce Sutka, one of Apfel’s friends for 30 years, tells PEOPLE exclusively about several fun adventures he had with her and her late husband, Carl Apfel. He also reveals the severity of Iris’ health issues before her death.

“Her recent decline has been so severe that I am glad she is gone — she is with Carl now. They belong together,” says Sutka, owner and creative director of Sutka Visual Design, adding that Iris’ hearing loss and macular degeneration in her eyes worsened significantly in recent months.

Sutka says that Iris rented a Hamptons house last summer as her health declined and, although she felt “lethargic,” she wanted to fulfill a dream of spending time with film producer Trudie Styler, who is Sting’s wife.

<p>ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty </p> Sting and wife Trudie Styler in February 2024


Sting and wife Trudie Styler in February 2024

Related: Vera Wang, Viola Davis and More Stars Mourn Death of Fashion Icon Iris Apfel: 'Forever an Inspiration'

“People would drop food off for her, but she never ate it,” Sutka recalls. “Iris really wanted to see Trudie, and on the day Trudie came to see her, Iris came to life. She was totally normal the whole day with Trudie because she was thrilled that the woman she admired so much was there.”

Sutka shared many fun times with Iris and Carl, who died in 2015, over the decades, including one standout Walmart outing with the couple.

“Carl picked up electric fans, pots and pans, and other similar things,” Sutka remembers. “Iris asked him, ‘What do you do with this stuff — put it back.’ Carl quipped, ‘F--- you, Iris!’ ”

Iris ended up picking up kids' boots because they were “so cute.”

<p>Cindy Ord/Getty</p> Carl and Iris Apfel in 2012

Cindy Ord/Getty

Carl and Iris Apfel in 2012

“It was her work that carried her through after her husband died,” Sutka notes. “She loved him so much. He was an eclectic man, a true gentleman and the other half of an incredible marriage.”

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Iris will be buried next to Carl in a “Jewish cemetery,” according to Sutka. Carl was buried in Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, east of New York City.

<p>Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty </p> A billboard featuring Iris Apfel in Paris in 2016

Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty

A billboard featuring Iris Apfel in Paris in 2016

Sutka, who called Iris “hot mama,” also recalls a trip to Paris, where Iris was surprised to see herself displayed so prominently on billboards throughout the city. “Iris had no idea she was so famous," he explains.

“Above all else, Iris was a style provocateur to the world,” Sutka says about his close friend. “But to me she was everything anyone could ask for in a mother figure. I will miss her very much.”

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