Thicke died after suffering a heart attack on Tuesday, Dec. 13

By Christina Dugan and Natalie Stone
Updated December 15, 2016 07:39 PM

Gloria Loring remembers her first date with her ex-husband Alan Thicke like it was yesterday — and says that it was one of the moments that made him stand out.

On Tuesday, Loring said goodbye to her ex-husband when he unexpectedly died at the age of 69 after suffering a heart attack. Reflecting on the many years she had with the father of her two children — sons Brennen, 41, and Robin, 39 — the singer-actress says that there was “a very powerful feeling — like we knew each other” right from the beginning of their relationship.

“I think the first thing that appealed to me is – he called me on the phone and said, ‘Hi, this is Alan Thicke from the CBC and I was about to say, ‘Oh well let me give you my manager’s number,’ thinking it was about an interview. He said, ‘No, I wanted to know if you’d like to go to dinner.’ And I was going to say, ‘Oh no thank you,’ but then he continued and said, ‘with my family.’ He invited me to his family’s home in Brampton, Ontario. I went there — at the time I was a vegetarian, so they cooked a fish dinner for me. We had so much fun!” Loring, 70, tells PEOPLE about the former couple’s first date.

“I just thought, ‘What a nice thing that he would want to take me to meet his family before we have even gone out!’ I think that was probably the first thing — he was so inclined and devoted to his family,” says Loring, who met Thicke in Toronto. “He could’ve just asked for a date, but his sensibility was, let me take her to my family’s home and enjoy a relaxing time because she’s on the road. It was so thoughtful and kind.”

Loring, who co-wrote the Diff’rent Strokes and Facts of Life theme songs with her late ex-husband, says that the Growing Pains star “remained consistent throughout his entire life.” Although the actor was “very busy” in the early years of his sons’ lives, Loring compliments him on his devotion to their family.

“He loved to play with them. But at one point he was doing three different shows in three different cities and I remember saying to him, ‘This can’t go much longer because you’re away much to much.’ But he was building a career and he was somebody who always loved to work. He loved the creative part of it. At the same time he was very devoted to family,” says Loring, who married Thicke in 1970 and later separated from in 1984 (their divorce was finalized in ’86).

Although the pair decided to go their separate ways, they remained amicable following their divorce, and Loring credits their strong bond to “our commitment to our children.”

“He was always enormously kind and thoughtful to my family members. We had family events where my family was invited to his home. I think it was just our commitment to family. I think it was just our devotion to our children and our promise to ourselves that we would continue to be parents to the best of our ability,” says Loring.

Since losing the family patriarch unexpectedly on Dec. 13, Loring says his absence is “just a profound loss for all of us,” but remarks that Thicke spending time with his youngest son in his final hours is a true reflection of his 69 years of life.

“I can’t imagine there’s any sweeter way for a Canadian man to leave this earth than to be playing hockey with his son. It’s just so Alan!” she says of Thicke, who was playing ice hockey with 19-year-old Carter Thicke when he suffered the heart attack.

“We did not sign up for this — to have him leave the midst of us,” says Loring, who adds, “He’s the centerpiece to our family. At family events, when Alan arrives, now the party can begin!”