updated 07/17/2014 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 07/18/2014 AT 8:00 AM ET
As Broadway prepares to dim its marquees on Friday night in tribute to Elaine Stritch, who died at her Michigan home on Thursday after a recent battle with stomach cancer, the highly individual actress-singer is being remembered by those who had the memorable experience of working with her, including 30 Rock creator and star Tina Fey.
“Elaine was a ‘tough old bird,’ but I suspect she may have been a ‘tough old bird’ since birth,” Fey tells PEOPLE. “I loved her voice, her timing, her stories and her natural elegance.
“One day she was wearing a beautiful butterfly cocktail ring, and when I admired it, she gave it to me on the spot – like an Arab sheik in black pantyhose. I feel very lucky to have worked with her as much as I did.”
Stritch’s most recent agent, Joel Dean, who was also her friend for 15 years, tells PEOPLE he remembers her as “a great lady” who also managed to challenge and reward him in equal doses.
“I was always trying to cheer her up. ‘How are you doing Elaine?’ ” he recalls his asking her. And her response? “Well, you can get me out of here, that’s what you can do!”
Adds Dean, “That’s how she was. She always had a quip for something or a sarcastic remark. I just adored that lady. She’s very tough to get to know. It took me a long time until she trusted me and let me into her world.”