erica campbell*Award winning gospel music group Mary Mary posted via Twitter on Wednesday that their father had died.

The group’s father, Eddie A. Atkins Jr., 66, who was described as a community leader and youth minister, passed away from cancer on Tuesday.

Erica Campbell opened up to ESSENCE.com about what her father meant to her.

“It’s really hard to deal with losing my dad,” said Campbell. “He was truly the strength of our family. And even though him and my mom were not together anymore… they stood hand-and-hand and they stood side-by-side to support their children.”

Campbell expressed that she was able to learn a lot from her father, especially his strength.

“He had a lot of health issues my entire life,” she followed up. “No matter what he went through, he was a fighter. That’s what I learned. He was super hilarious and super sarcastic. He never let life take him too low. He had his low moments, but he never let life take him too low. That’s what we learned. We learned to cope with the challenges and keep it moving—that’s why we keep singing, why we keep ministering, why we keep talking to people.”

Having such a positive and lasting impact on his daughters and family, Atkins gave Campbell many things to remember him by. “Even though my dad is gone, I have so much to hold on to,” she said. “That gives me comfort. He didn’t leave here without knowing his daughters loved him. He didn’t leave here not knowing that we cared and that we cherished him.”

In honor of Mr. Atkins (pictured below), the family held a musical celebration for him on Sunday and his funeral service will take place today, Tuesday, in Lynwood, CA.

eddie atkins