Columbo star Peter Falk liked to take his daughters to the park to watch people pass by. “The greatest lesson I learned from my father was how to size people up. He had a true gift for that,” Catherine Falk tells Closer. “He taught me how to analyze people’s gestures, body language and physical movements.”

The Emmy-winning actor, who played America’s favorite police detective on TV for more than three decades, shared a lot of personality traits with Lieutenant Columbo. That’s no surprise because Peter played a big part in creating the rumpled yet uniquely perceptive sleuth. “My mom always told me my dad was Columbo long before Columbo found my dad,” says Catherine, with a chuckle. “He’d ask the same question like 20 different ways until he got the answer that he wanted. He was always curious about things.”

Catherine and her sister, Jackie, were products of Peter’s first marriage, to his college sweetheart, Alyce Mayo. Although the couple divorced in 1976 after 16 years of marriage, “they were best friends,” says Catherine, who recalls attending L.A. Kings hockey games with her parents. Afterward, they’d wind up at a diner talking until very late. “I remember watching my mom and dad laugh and tell stories about their college years,” she says. “It was nice as a teenager to experience that.”

Like Columbo, Peter could be absent-minded about practical things. “He would park the car and always forget where he parked,” says Catherine, who remembers riding around with security guards searching for her dad’s old Mercedes. “He was so consumed with his art, music, politics and things like that, he didn’t even know the color of his car!”

Driving with Peter could also be an adventure. “My dad would always want to make eye contact with us,” recalls Catherine, who would be seated with her sister in the back. “Because my dad only had sight in his left eye, he would turn his entire head around to see us. We were always in a panic because he would go through red lights or wind up on the sidewalk!”

Peter Falk smiles in portrait while smoking a cigarette
Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

Time spent with his daughters was precious to the Columbo star, whose second marriage, to actress Shera Danese, lasted until his 2011 death. In addition to bringing the whole family to movie premieres and set visits, Peter liked to take his girls ice skating. “He just loved to race around the rink,” says Catherine.

Peter had other hobbies, too. “His art studio was his favorite place to be besides the golf course,” says Catherine. “He was an incredible sketcher with charcoal. He loved good music, drawing, photography, going to museums and watching fine films.”

The star, who lived to be 83, did his best to live life to the fullest. “As a child, he had cancer in his eye, so he basically had one eye for his entire life,” says Catherine. “He would always say to me, ‘I see more with one eye than most people see with both eyes.’ And he was right.”