Just before The Fast and Furious star Paul Walker crashed and killed himself, his father admonished him: “No more daredevil stuff.”
While the steel-eyed Walker loved adrenaline driving in movies and in real life, he was less reckless with his soul.
“I’m a Christian now,” Paul Walker Jr. told USA Today. “The people I don’t understand are atheists. I go surfing and snowboarding and I’m always around nature. I look at everything and think, ‘Who couldn’t believe there’s a God? Is all this a mistake?’ It just blows me away.”
On Nov. 30, 2013, Walker was executing a high-speed “drifting” turn in Valencia in his Porsche Carrera GT when he slammed into a light post and tree. The car burst into flames and the celebrity died “within a nanosecond,” according to one account.
He exited this world, leaving the hearts of hundreds of thousands of adoring fans. He roared into Heaven, no doubt, at speeds he could never imagine.
Walker — who played the levelheaded Brian O’Connor in the The Fast & Furious franchise — was born into a Mormon family in Glendale, CA, but was sent to a born-again Christian school, Sun Valley’s Village Christian School, from which he graduated in 1991. At some point in time, his convictions changed from those of his parents and he sided with the teachings of his school.
His first acting gig was for Pampers diapers when he was a toddler. He studied marine biology and developed a passion for sea life. His grandfather raced factory cars for Ford in the 1960s, and Walker apparently inherited the speed demon from him.
Until his breakout role in the $5 billion grossing series The Fast and Furious, Walker featured in small parts in Highway to Heaven, Who’s the Boss?, The Young and the Restless, and Touched by an Angel.
A “fun, funny and carefree” guy, Walker was liked by his fellow actors, his former schoolmates and his millions of fans.
He loved surfing, tagging sharks for study and jiu-jitsu.
He also cared about suffering around the world. He founded the charity Reach Out Worldwide and led teams of doctors and aid workers to places struck by natural disasters. In January 2010, he flew to Haiti after a massive earthquake left people homeless, without power, hungry and in need of medical attention. Ironically, he had surfed there a year earlier.
Next he went to Chile after it was overrun by a tsunami.
“I’m a doer, and whether it was the tsunami in Sri Lanka or the earthquake in Indonesia, I was always saying, I should be there; I should be helping out,” Walker wrote on his nonprofit’s website.
He was constantly worried about people around the world.
“My mother’s a nurse, my sister’s going to nursing school right now, and my friends have construction backgrounds,” he tweeted once. “God willing, the next time there’s a natural disaster I’m going to be there with 11 or 14 people and a handful of doctors. And the next time, it’ll be 150 people with 30 to 35 doctors.”
“My heart is hurting so bad. No one can make me believe this is real. Father God I pray that you send clarity over this cause I just don’t understand,” wrote Fast and Furious co-star Tyrese Gibson. “Prayer warriors, please pray real hard for his only child, his daughter and family.”
He is survived by his 19-year-old daughter, Meadow Rain. It had been his plan to retire from acting at age 40 – or at least reevaluate his career – because he wanted to spend more time with his daughter.
“He said, ‘I love my daughter and I don’t want to miss out on her life and family and caring for her,’” reported childhood chum Andy Muxlow on HuffPo. “He was trying to see how he can be relocated more in the L.A. area” to better care for her.
It was his daughter who encouraged him to continue acting because she liked to travel with him to different filming sites around the world.
Paul Walker III spoke to his son about pushing the outer edge of the envelope with his driving. “Promise me, no more daredevil stuff,” he said, according to the NY Daily News. “If in your heart, you say, ‘I can do this,’ then by all means, do it. If your mind says, maybe not, then don’t. Will you promise me that?”
Respecting his father’s wishes, Paul Walker IV promised.
When he died, his long time friend Roger Rodas, 38, was also in the car and met the same fate.
“All my strength, love and faith to the Walker family during this heartbreaking time,” said Fast and Furious co-star Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. “We find our strength in his light.”
Zach Catalano studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.