Kirk Cameron knew immediately upon meeting Alan Thicke at age 14 that he was going to be a "really cool dad" on Growing Pains.
"I remember thinking, 'Wow, this famous Canadian talk show host guy sounds different when he says words like, 'about' and 'aye,' but he's really nice and funny," Cameron told the Today show on Thursday, just two days after Thicke died suddenly from a heart attack at age 69.
Cameron said that even when the cameras weren't rolling, Thicke and his other Growing Pains co-stars operated like a family for those seven seasons. "We were a family," he recalled. "We laughed and cried together, shared birthday celebrations, Christmas parties, holidays and worked together with the crew as a team to make a really special TV show. We weren't just a TV family. In many ways, we were a real family."
The 46-year-old actor -- now a father himself -- remembers Thicke planning reunions after the show ended in 1992. "In an ever-changing world, my friendship with Alan was always a constant," he shared. "Meeting up with Alan, even after years had passed since we'd seen each other -- we'd just pick up the conversation where we'd left off."
Cameron added that his onscreen dad taught him a lot over the years. "Jason Seaver [Thicke's character] on Growing Pains was a man who didn't take himself too seriously, but took his role as a father very seriously," he explained. "Alan was just like that kind of man. Alan knew that time invested in his family, even more than his career, would be one of his greatest legacies."
Cameron's sister, Candace Cameron Bure, also spent some time with Thicke -- who recently guest starred on her Netflix show, Fuller House -- and shared with ET some of those memories. "Alan has just always been that lovable, kind, gracious man -- great father, great friend," she said. "He just always had a smile on his face, always had a joke to say. And he had that very dry sense of humor too. I know that everyone's going to talk about Alan, and I can't imagine that anyone will have anything negative to say about that guy because that's the kind of person he was."