Bernie Mac’s Family Opens Up About Final Hours; Russell Simmons, Method Man Remember Comedian

'He will always be remembered as one of the original kings of comedy,' Mac's daughter says.

A memorial service has been set for Bernie Mac, who died over the weekend at age 50 of complications from pneumonia . The comedian/actor, who is a native of Chicago, will be remembered Saturday in his hometown.

The service will be held at the House of Hope, and his family is asking that donations be made in his honor to the Bernie Mac Foundation for Sarcoidosis. Mac had suffered from sarcoidosis since 2005, but the inflammatory lung disease had been in remission when he died.

Despite reports that Mac (born Bernard Jeffery McCullough) had entered the hospital only a week before his passing, he had been receiving treatment a week prior to that, according to People magazine. The magazine also reported that Mac had started taking a prescription that suppressed his immune system, which may have contributed to him contracting pneumonia.

“He opened his eyes on his own and looked at [his wife] Rhonda,” Mac’s sister-in-law Mary Ann Grossett told People of the performer’s final hours. “She called his name, and he opened his eyes and nodded to her. She smiled at him and told him, ‘Don’t leave me.’ … He shrugged his shoulders, and she said that’s when she knew he was tired. He signaled to her that his body was tired.”

Mac’s daughter, Je’niece Childress, 30, told The Associated Press that she and her mom had expected Mac to recover from the pneumonia, but they were ready for the worst. “I think he will always be remembered as one of the original kings of comedy,” Childress said. “I think what made him so special to people was that even though he was a celebrity, he just seemed so down to earth and so much like a part of your family.

“He was a hard man, and he made no apologies for that,” Childress added. “When it came to me and my mother and my daughter, he was the softest.”

Good friend Russell Simmons also opened up about Mac’s loss. Before Mac was a household name, he and Simmons worked together in 1992 on Def Comedy Jam. “He represented a kind of ‘hood attitude and cultural phenomenon that was under-exploited in America but had great potential,” he told BBC’s 1Xtra News. “He was always honest, and that honesty was what he exuded and what made him so great.”

And the outpouring of sadness has continued to come out of the hip-hop community. “I give my condolences to … his family,” Method Man told MTV News. “He’s one of the great ones, definitely.”

Fellow Chicago native Double-O from Kidz in the Hall added: “It’s a terrible loss. I mean, you need funny in your life at all times. He was definitely one who brought it, one of the best comedians I’ve ever really experienced, and condolences go out to everyone in his family.”

Mac’s comedy also resonated with A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg. “It’s like one of my favorite comedians,” he told MTV News. “Bernie is just ridiculous with it, or he was, so God bless his family, God bless his soul. But Bernie was that dude, for real, so rest in peace, man.”

Mac had four projects in post-production, including “Old Dogs” with John Travolta and “Soul Men,” which featured Isaac Hayes, who also died over the weekend .