'Eight is Enough' actor Dick Van Patten remembered as devoted family man on and off TV

by Kimberly Pennington, National Correspondent |
A wreath adorns the star of actor Dick Van Patten on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, United States, June 23, 2015. Van Patten, who grew from a busy child actor on Broadway to be a mainstay on U.S. television as the amiable patriarch on the family show "Eight Is Enough" died on Tuesday at age 86, his spokesman said. | REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (Christian Examiner) -- Actor Dick Van Patten, best known for his role as television dad and newspaper columnist Tom Bradford on the hit series "Eight is Enough," is being remembered by his co-stars as a generous, devoted family man. Van Patten, a devout Roman Catholic, died Tuesday at age 86 from diabetes complications.

"When it comes to Dick van Patten, you only have fond memories," actor Grant Goodeve, who played eldest son David, told Fox News. "He was an exceptionally good man: kind, warm, funny, and really for many of us, and I know especially myself, was like a dad.

Dick Van Patten in Eight is Enough.

"One of the great things that shows his generosity of heart – he loved my kids. They [Dick and wife Patti] are just the most generous, warm, loving people. They're great," Goodeve stated.

Co-star Susan Richardson who portrayed Susan Bradford told Entertainment Tonight she was "absolutely heartbroken" upon hearing the news of her TV dad's death.

"I knew it was going to happen sometime, but you're just not prepared. I just can't say enough about him. He's going to be missed by the world.

"One of the tabloids tried to make me out to be really pathetic and poor and disgusting and all that. Well, Dick saw the layout, didn't know if it was true or not, and sent me a check for a whole bunch of money. This is the kind of man he is," she tearfully said.

Actor Willie Ames who played Tommy Bradford on the show told the entertainment news program, "I'll miss him. Dick was the best. He was just the best. He was always upbeat. Dick would always get us together on the set, and he would say, 'I want you to remember these days, gang, because these are the good 'ole days.'"

Van Patten's upbeat attitude was also a fond memory of actress Betty Buckley who played Van Patten's television wife on the show which ran from 1977-1981.

Broadway World reported Buckley's reflections: "I am deeply saddened to hear about Dick Van Patten passing away. He taught me so much when I worked with him on 'Eight Is Enough.' He was our rock, our leader, our role model. He was the consummate professional, a wonderful actor and master of comedy.

"Every day on set he was a happy, jovial person, always generous and ready to play, tease and always keep us all laughing. His love for life and his family were an inspiration. I loved him very much. I send my deepest condolences to his family."

Aames also recalled Van Patten's devotion to his wife forThe Hollywood Reporter. "I've tried to emulate this in my own life, the way he lifted up his wife and his family. Every day, the first thing he'd say when someone asked, 'How are you Dick?' was 'I woke up next to Patti Van Patten today. What could be better?'

"He loved and adored his family. He always had some wonderful thing to say about his wife. He lived such a great example off-camera."

Van Patten claimed that devotion to family was a trait he shared with the television character he portrayed as well as Tom Braden, the real life reporter and father of eight children whose memoir inspired the television show.

"Tom Bradford was very much like me. His family came first. His career was second. And it's the same with me. My family comes first. The career is second. And I think that's the kind of father he was in real life too. He was a very important man, Tom Braden," Van Patten said in an online interview.

He made a similar comment to Entertainment Tonight in 2006. "The marriage comes before the career. The family's first and the career is second. I could get fired from a show. As long as everything's okay with my family, it really would not bother me."

Aames also appreciated Van Patten's work ethic. "The thing that people most need to understand about him was that he had the most gratitude of anyone I knew. For the fans, for the networks for allowing us all to have a great life. He was grateful to be a working actor, and a very underrated one at that.

"At one point on Eight Is Enough, there was a movement on set to gang up on the network [ABC] and demand more money. We were all in San Francisco in a car, shooting on location. The idea was the cast would band together and they asked what I thought.

"I said, 'I think we will all get fired.' We were all working for Lorimar at that point. 'You're all nuts.' Dick started to laugh, 'Good for you Willie. I agree. We keep our mouths shut and enjoy the work while we've got it.'"

Van Patten's publicist Jeff Ballard described the actor as "the kindest man you could ever meet in life. A loving family man. They don't make them like him anymore."

Van Patten is survived by his wife of 62 years, actress Pat Van Patten, and sons Nels, Jimmy, and Vincent Van Patten. The Catholic News World has an obituary with a request for prayers.