Glynn Turman, who was married to Franklin from 1978 to 1984, was joined by Stevie Wonder when he paid his last respects on Tuesday.
The actor said his former wife was ‘strong until the very end’ before her death left millions of fans around the world devastated.
Speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain from Los Angeles, he said: ‘We were just both on the plane to pay our respects, both trying to hold onto the hope that everything would be alright.
Turman said when he arrived at Franklin’s Detroit home on Tuesday, her carer gently shook her and said “Aretha, Glenn is here.”
‘She woke up, opened her eyes and made contact. It was a wonderful thing to see,’ he said.
‘I could tell by the look in her eye, she knew it was me.’
‘I was holding her hand at her bedside, holding her wrist,’ the 71-year-old said.
‘Her pulse was so strong and full of life. Her breathing was such a defiance of what was attacking her.’
Turman, a producer and actor who has recently been in The Wire and House of Lies, said Franklin, his second wife, had a ‘great sense of humor’ and was ‘always cracking jokes.’
‘She had a repertoire of jokes she would try out on anyone,’ he said.
Turnman said Franklin was ‘strong till the very end,’ adding: ‘I was holding her hand at her bedside, holding her wrist, her pulse was so strong and full of life
Aretha Franklin (centre) poses with Glynn Turman (left) in 1980. The couple split in 1982 and then divorced in 1984
Left to right: Magic Johnson, Glynn Turman, Aretha Franklin and George Benson in 1981. Franklin passed away aged 76 on Thursday
Memorials in honor of Franklin have started growing across the United States as her devastated fans, loved ones and fellow stars pay tribute to the long-reigning Queen of Soul. Pictured: Fans at the Apollo theatre in New York
‘There are some, but I can’t tell you what they are. She could make a situation funny… it would crack you up.
‘She was full of life, a very curious woman, she wanted to try things.’
The actor, who was Franklin’s second husband, said his favorite moment with her was when she sang for the Queen Mother in Britain.
‘It meant a lot to her and all of us,’ he said.
‘I never forget the Queen Mother being as gracious as she was.’
Talking about Franklin’s rise to super-stardom, he said: ‘She did it with a tremendous will – you had to come up with a strong argument to change her mind.’
They separated in 1982 after Franklin returned to Michigan from California, and they divorced in 1984.
Memorials in honor of Franklin have started growing across the United States as her devastated fans, loved ones and fellow stars pay tribute to the long-reigning Queen of Soul.
Franklin passed away on Thursday at 9.50am surrounded by family and friends at her home in Detroit following a battle with advanced pancreatic cancer.
‘In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family,’ a statement from her family read.
‘We have been deeply touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support we have received from close friends, supporters and fans all around the world. Thank you for your compassion and prayers.
‘We have felt your love for Aretha and it brings us comfort to know that her legacy will live on. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.’
Franklin, who sang with matchless style on such classics as ‘Think,’ ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ and her signature song, ‘Respect’, announced her retirement from touring last year.