Dick Clark New Year’s Eve Love Story – Same Couple Dancing Since 1972

Louie and Kathy Novoa

Courtesy Louie Novoa

updated 12/28/2012 AT 3:00 PM ET

originally published 12/30/2012 AT 2:45 PM ET

This New Year’s Eve will be just like any other for Kathy and Louie Novoa, except without their dear friend Dick Clark, who passed away in April.

The pair met on American Bandstand and have since taken part in every one of his New Year’s Rockin’ Eves since they began on the Queen Mary in 1972.

“To be there from the very first one he did and to still be a part of it, I think, wow, I can’t believe it,” Louie tells PEOPLE. “I still have the original invitation to the very first one.”

As for being a part of Rockin’ Eve for the first time since Clark’s death, Kathy says, “It’s very sad and heartbreaking to know he started this tradition and was so important in so many homes. Everybody watches Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve. It’s very hard [with him gone], but it’s also great knowing that it’s still going on. That’s what he would want.”

Louie and Kathy Novoa

Courtesy Louie Novoa
Now officially a couple for 36 years, Louie says that starting the New Year with a kiss is his favorite tradition on the show, which kicks off at 8 p.m. ET/PT this year on ABC.

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