Bassist Geezer Butler (BLACK SABBATH, HEAVEN & HELL) has released the following statement regarding the passing of legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio (DIO, HEAVEN & HELL, BLACK SABBATH, RAINBOW):"It's impossible to express in mere words the relationship Ronnie and I, Wendy and my wife Gloria had. He was much more than a friend, fellow musician, band mate. If I have a soul, then he is part of it. I truly believe God, fate, destiny, whatever it's called, brought us together again in 2006, after not seeing each other for 14 years, to do one final tour, which turned into three major tours and an album. We were having a blast together, enjoying each other's company more than we had ever done before, talking about maybe doing one more album, when fate intervened again. We were planning on doing a two- or three-part North American tour, after having toured South America and Europe in spring/summer 2009, but on the first leg of the North American tour, Tony's [Iommi] hand ligaments were in a bad way, Vinny's [Appice] shoulder became dislocated, and Ronnie was having terrible stomach pains. We decided to cut the tour, get healthy, and carry on the following year. Tony and Vinny had successful procedures to fix their ailments, but Ronnie's stomach pains were worsening. I saw him at the Dio Halloween party, but he wasn't drinking, unusual for Ronnie who liked his tipple. He was telling me he had made an appointment with a specialist, to see what it was..... "Wednesday, 12th May 2010. "Wendy invited Gloria and I to lunch in Santa Barbara. A few close friends of Ronnie and Wendy, Omar, Simon, Paul, Tim, and Diana, had dropped by. Ronnie had no appetite whatsoever — the disease and the chemotherapy were taking an immense toll. As usual, we talked sports and had a laugh together — it would be the last time. That night, I had a beautiful email from him, that I will treasure forever. I sent him an email saying I'd see him during the following week. "Friday, 14th May 2010. "Wendy called to say she had taken Ronnie to hospital. The pain had become unbearable. We got to the hospital around 2 p.m. The doctor eventually sedated him. More and more friends were coming to visit — we took it in turns to hold Ronnie's hand, and whisper our thoughts to him. Wendy wouldn't leave his side — she stayed curled up on his bed the whole night. Gloria's assistant, Debi, kept her company. I emailed Tony to prepare him for bad news. "Saturday, 15th May 2010. "There was no mistaking Ronnie's room. There were around 25 to 30 friends outside his room. We knew the end was imminent. We all wanted to say our goodbyes. It was a day filled with tears and reflection. In the evening, the chaplain came, and we all gathered around Ronnie's bed and prayed. Ronnie wasn't going easily. At 11 p.m., most of us left, leaving Wendy her privacy to say her last farewell. The devastation was palpable. "Sunday, 16th May 2010. "7.46 a.m. As we were preparing to leave for the hospital, Gloria called Wendy to see if she wanted a coffee or any breakfast — she broke the sad news. Ronnie had just passed away. "Wendy Dio has been a true saint through all this. She has been with Ronnie every step of the way. Her courage has amazed us all. Even as I write, she is ensuring Ronnie has the finest send-off possible. God bless you, Wendel. "Most people who were there for those last days chose to keep their thoughts private. I wanted to keep my thoughts private, too, but I've been overwhelmed by emails, and requests from the media and fans for comments. "I can truly say I've never known anyone to have such loyal, loving friends, fans, and family as Ronnie. He really was a special person, blessed with a unique voice and presence. He loved his fans — he would stay meeting and talking to them until the early hours of the morning. "One of my fondest memories of him comes from last year, at the Sonisphere Festival, Knebworth. He noticed my sister and her husband at the side of the stage. During our opening song, he took the time to go over and hug them. Just a little thing like that made him special to me. "Of course his music will live on forever, as will his influence. "I have never seen so many tributes from so many musicians and fans, so many good wishes, no cynicism, just pure love and appreciation for a great man. "God bless you, Ronald — thank you so much for the wonderful memories."