Paul Walker Was the ‘Happiest He’d Ever Been’ as a Dad

Paul Walker

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updated 08/25/2015 AT 8:16 PM ET

originally published 12/04/2013 AT 6:20 PM ET

He may have been a movie star, but friends say the role Paul Walker cherished most was Dad.

At the time of his tragic death on Saturday, the actor was living with daughter Meadow, 15, full time and loving every minute as an involved father.

“He told me recently he was the happiest he’d ever been,” close friend Brandon Birtell tells PEOPLE. “It was directly because of the growing relationship with his daughter and the clarity that brought to his life.”

In her younger years, Meadow lived in Hawaii with her mother, and Walker s onetime girlfriend, Rebecca Soteros. His own schedule meant constant travel from his California home base, but Walker’s little girl was never far from his heart.

“It really affected him that he missed time with her in her early years because he was working,” Walker’s longtime manager and close friend Matt Luber tells PEOPLE. “It was a struggle for him. [When she moved to California], he wanted to make the most of every single moment with her. He was completely dedicated.”

In fact, despite the fact that the free-spirited Walker “liked the freedom of having no roots, she was the only thing he couldn’t stand being away from, adds Birtell.