“Golden Bachelorette ”Joan Vassos 'Was Surprised' By Gerry and Theresa's Divorce but 'It's Not the End of the World'

The school administrator was announced as the lead of 'The Golden Bachelorette' on May 14

<p>James Clark/Disney via Getty; John & Joseph Photography/Disney via Getty</p> Joan Vassos; Gerry Turner and Theresa Nist at the Golden Wedding

James Clark/Disney via Getty; John & Joseph Photography/Disney via Getty

Joan Vassos; Gerry Turner and Theresa Nist at the Golden Wedding

Joan Vassos, the first lead of ABC’s inaugural season of The Golden Bachelorette, was as caught off guard as the rest of the world by the news that Gerry Turner and Theresa Nist were divorcing.

In her first interview since being named the lead of the upcoming Bachelor spinoff, Vassos, 61, told CNN that she “loved watching” Turner, 72, and Nist, 71, on “their journey.”

“I saw them fall in love. I believed just, like – they did that. They were like the perfect couple,” she said of the Golden Bachelor lead, whose heart she vied for before bowing out of the show to return to her family.

“I applaud that they jumped into this process with both feet and they were ready to find love and they knew what true love was. They both had it in their previous lives. So, I applaud them for doing that and I also applaud them when they discovered it wasn’t perfect,” she continued, referring to the bombshell the couple delivered on Good Morning America in April.

Hours after sharing their plans to separate, Turner officially filed for divorce from Nist in Indiana, according to documents obtained by PEOPLE.

Related: Joan Vassos Reveals Her Relatable Reason for Joining Golden Bachelorette and Non-Negotiables for a Future Partner

Vassos said it’s “not the end of the world” that the couple “called it quits.”

“We have to let them live their journey and follow their hearts and it wasn’t right for them,” she said, adding, “I did not see it coming.”

Vassos noted that Turner and Nist are “still good friends,” and that she's “good friends with both of them.”

<p>Disney/John Fleenor</p> Gerry Turner and Theresa Nist at 'After the Final Rose'

Disney/John Fleenor

Gerry Turner and Theresa Nist at 'After the Final Rose'

Several other women who previously vied for Turner's heart on the Golden Bachelor have also weighed in on his split from Nist, including Susan Noles, who told PEOPLE her "biggest thing" in the aftermath of the news "was letting everybody know, just be kind."

"S--- happens. Who are we to judge?" Noles, 67, said of the split.

Kathy Swarts, Noles' podcast co-host and fellow Golden Bachelor alum, told PEOPLE that she wishes Turner and Nist "a lifetime of love."

"They're doing what they have to do in their life. And I think that's the message here, is everyone's doing the best they can."

<p>Disney/Ramona Rosales</p> Joan Vassos is named 'The Golden Bachelorette'

Disney/Ramona Rosales

Joan Vassos is named 'The Golden Bachelorette'

Related: Kathy Swarts Would Want to 'Be Engaged Longer' Than Gerry and Theresa If Named Golden Bachelorette (Exclusive)

Turner, meanwhile, took to social media on May 14 to wish Vassos the best as she takes the helm of the dating series.

"Dear Joan, Congratulations on being named the first ever Golden Bachelorette. You will be phenomenal as the new representative of a generation," he wrote in a post on Instagram. "From one golden to another ... Relax, breathe and enjoy."

In a comment, Vassos thanked Turner for the "beautiful message."

"What a beautiful message from my fellow golden. You have taught me so much about being open and vulnerable and how looking for love at this age can be dignified and fun. Thank you my friend for setting the stage for the rest of us Goldens…and I’m open to advice!!! XO."

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The Golden Bachelorette premieres this fall on ABC.

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