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Bette Davis was mother to two daughters and a son, but in the final decade of her life she welcomed a surrogate daughter into her life.

"She taught me so much," says Kathryn Sermak, who served as the prickly two-time Oscar winner's personal assistant off-and-on from 1979 until Davis's death in 1989.

Sermak was just 23 when she interviewed to become the All About Eve star's live-in assistant.

"Miss Davis seized my hand firmly, increasing her grip. She left an imprint on my fingers. "How do you do?" she said in her honey-and-gravel voice," Sermak, now 61, writes in her memoir, Miss D and Me: Life with the Invincible Bette Davis, excerpted exclusively in the current issue of PEOPLE.

In her first days as Davis's assistant, Sermak's handshake became the topic of much discussion.

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