Bethenny Frankel is honoring her late on-again, off-again boyfriend Dennis Shields this Father’s Day.
The Skinnygirl mogul, 48, posted an Instagram tribute to Shields — who was found dead in his Trump Tower apartment on Aug. 10 from a suspected overdose — and thanked him for his role in her daughter Bryn’s life.
“Happy Father’s Day,” Frankel began her post. “In memory of Dennis, a man who was a father of five beautiful children and a beautiful influence in my daughter’s life.”
The post featured a photo of the then-couple enjoying themselves during a sunset on the beach. Frankel had met the 51-year-old banker nearly 20 years ago when he dated and later married Jill Schwartzberg, one of her high school friends.
While the pair did not stay in touch, Frankel and Shields shared other mutual friends and began dating in 2016 — several months after he separated from Schwartzberg and three years after she filed for divorce from ex-husband Jason Hoppy.
Shields was still legally married to Schwartzberg when he and Frankel found each other, and he eventually proposed to Frankel last April with a mega-carat rock. Though he was close with her 9-year-old daughter Bryn, Frankel kept their engagement private and never gave Shields a clear yes, telling him that things were on “ice” until some “conditions” had been met and “changes” made, Frankel previously explained.
On the Saturday before Shields’ death, Frankel thought, “I have to exit this dynamic,” she said on an episode of Real Housewives of New York City in April.
“He had such a powerful force in my life and my daughter loved it, that it was like this whole thing that was hard to extricate myself from,” Frankel recalled.
After Shields was found dead the Friday after Frankel felt ready to leave the relationship, she began to feel culpable. “There was a lot in my mind about him dying right after that. I could not get off the ride. I feel guilty that the only way I got off the ride is that he’s dead,” she said during the April episode. “I hope I didn’t have anything to do with him dying.”
She also found it extremely difficult to find her “place” at his funeral, realizing she had to take a back seat.
“It’s different for me than for his ex-wife, who has to deal with the morgue and the bills and the kids and all of this other stuff,” she previously explained to grief counselor Dr. Norman Fried.
“I had to figure out where my place was at the funeral,” she said. “I didn’t want to intrude. I didn’t feel like I had an identity in any of it.”
Frankel is currently dating real estate developer and film producer Paul Bernon. She made their relationship Instagram official last December, sharing two photos of the couple celebrating Christmas together in the Dominican Republic.
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