He was the perfect person to play the quintessential father figure, actor Willie Aames says

By Mia McNiece
June 23, 2015 07:50 PM
Everett

Dick Van Patten’s costars fondly remember the man who played their patriarch for four years on Eight is Enough.

“He was the perfect person to play the quintessential father figure, because it was real,” actor Willie Aames tells PEOPLE. “You’d see him with his kids and with his family and he was just such a positive, pleasant, great guy.”

Van Patten, who played father of eight Tom Bradford on the series from 1977-81, died Tuesday from complications with diabetes. He was 86.

“He was our rock, our leader, our role model,” Betty Buckley, who played Van Patten’s fictional wife Abby Bradford, tells PEOPLE. Every day on set he was a happy, jovial person, always generous and ready to play, tease and keep us all laughing.”

Aames says that while Van Patten loved acting and living by the beach, it was his wife, Patty Van Patten, who made him the happiest.

“He would start his day saying how great his life was because he had Patty,” says Aames, adding he will always remember the advice Van Patten gave him.

“He said, ‘Remember today. Remember what you are doing. Time is short and these really are the good old days.’ ”

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