The father of gospel music star Donnie McClurkin Jr. would work three jobs every year during Christmas season to make sure he could give his children enough presents, even though the family was poor, relatives recalled.
A longtime construction worker whose grandmother was a slave, Donald McClurkin Sr. seemed to have helped build half the houses and gas stations in Amityville and Copiague, his family said.
"That man was my heart," said Donnie McClurkin Jr., the Grammy-winning pastor of Perfecting Faith Church in Freeport who sang at Whitney Houston's funeral. "He was like the Superman Dad."
McClurkin Sr., 79, died Nov. 13 in his hometown of Chester, S.C., after complications from surgery.
He was the son of a preacher and the seventh of eight children. His parents were sharecroppers for a time, living off the land with chickens, cows, mules and pigs, said a daughter, Marlene McClurkin Mason of Amityville.
By the time he was 20, he moved to Long Island, where he had relatives, and soon met his future wife, Frances. She died in January at 79. The couple had divorced in 1979.
Frances McClurkin was more of the musical influence on the couple's eight children, while her husband was the breadwinner, relatives said. McClurkin Jr. recalled how the family, which lived in Amityville, would drive by construction sites to marvel at McClurkin Sr. working, especially as he operated a backhoe.
A Baptist, he worshipped apart from his wife and children, who attended Pentecostal churches. But he was always a deacon and leader wherever he went, relatives said.
"He had great integrity. If he said he was going to do something, he did it," Mason said.
In recent years, McClurkin Sr. became a presence at his son's church in Freeport, where people called him "Pop" and "he took on that role as the wisdom-giver," his son said.
In 2011, McClurkin Sr. remarried, and a year ago moved back to Chester, his son said.
McClurkin Sr. is also survived by his wife, Melanie Privott McClurkin; his children, Cheryl McClurkin, of Amityville, Andrea McClurkin Mellini, of Farmingville, Anthony McClurkin, of Indiana, Tanya McClurkin Staples, of Alabama, and Rafael McClurkin, of Amityville; his siblings, Willie McClurkin, of Amityville, and Robert McClurkin, of Ohio, and Pansy McClurkin-Sims, John D. McClurkin and Mary Emma McClurkin Davis, all of South Carolina; four stepchildren; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A "homecoming" service will be held Wednesday night at Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York, Jamaica, Queens. Burial is scheduled for Thursday.