If he gave it to the character first, maybe he liked it so much that he started using it personally. Or if the other way around, maybe the father was a bit of an author self-insert. I'm sure he wanted to be the inspiration to many people as Ellie's father was an inspiration to her.
It seems he quoted Thomas Carlyle back in 1972 (And 1975? Or is that when the recording was released? I'm confused.): "A sad spectacle. If they be inhabited, what a scope for misery and folly. If they be not inhabited, what a waste of space."