Paul Walker: Inside His Life as a Dad to Meadow Rain, 15

"I've never had anything like this in my life," he said of raising a daughter

Photo: Courtesy of the Walker Family

Onscreen and off, Paul Walker loved the adrenaline rush of racing cars. But some of his time behind the wheel was quieter – and even closer to his heart.

Driving his daughter, Meadow Rain, to school in the morning, “I just shut up, sit back and stay quiet,” he told PEOPLE in 2011, when she was about to turn 13. “She opens up and reveals a whole lot. The trick is to not ask questions, just listen. I’m figuring it out.”

Walker, who died in a car crash on Saturday, was a proud and devoted father to Meadow, who turned 15 in November. Tragically, witnesses say, she was on hand to support her dad at his Reach Out Worldwide charity car show in Santa Clarita, Calif., when Walker and friend Roger Rodas left for a spin in a Porsche Carrera GT and never came back.

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Walker dated Meadow’s mother, Rebecca, when he was in his mid-20s, but the actor has said he wasn’t mature enough to get married. “It was tough,” he recently told WENN. “I was one of those ones who believed when you get married it’s forever. But I was thinking down the road. I knew where I was at with chicks and having fun … I was an animal.”

Meadow spent her early years living in Hawaii with her mom, but Walker and McBrain shared custody and the toddler often visited her dad on his movie sets before moving back to California. When she was 7, Walker taught her to surf: “Every day I pick her up from school and we go out on a longboard,” Walker told PEOPLE in 2006. “She really loves it.”

A few years ago, Walker offered up his L.A.-area house for Meadow and her mom to stay in, and was helping her adjust to a new school. “She’s starting all over. She’s doing well,” he proudly told PEOPLE in 2011. “She’s a warrior, that one, so she has no difficulty making friends.”

This year, Walker told EW that Meadow was staying with him full-time. “She’s the best partner I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’ve never had anything like this in my life. I’ve been so transient, I’ve been on my own since I was 16. … There’s a part of me who feels like I’m making up for lost time.”

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