Ed Asner was a much loved actor, known for iconic TV series, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant and, more recently the hit holiday movie, Elf, but his favorite “role” was being an adoring dad to his children.

Asner’s son, Matthew, misses their daily calls. “I have a message he left me that I play whenever I feel I need a boost,” he told Closer in an exclusive interview. “He called and was letting me know how proud he was of me. I don’t care how old someone is or where they are in life. But when a father says this to his son it is everything. He was my best friend and I feel his loss every day.”

Matthew described his dad as being strict, but always fair. “My father supported me and my siblings and let us find out who we were as people and embraced that. He was a teacher and opened our eyes to so many wonderful things.”

Inspired by Matthew’s three autistic sons and other family members on the spectrum, Asner helped to create a nonprofit organization, the Ed Asner Family Center. The organization recently hosted the 11th Annual Ed Asner & Friends Celebrity Poker Night to raise funds and awareness.

“My father loved poker and he counted the days until he could see his friends and play poker for his cause,” said Matthew, who is president/CEO. “We continue to do this in his honor.”