Rosie O'Donnell's father, Edward Joseph O'Donnell, has passed away, PEOPLE has learned

By Lindsay Kimble
Updated August 23, 2015 04:20 PM
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Rosie O’Donnell‘s father, Edward Joseph O’Donnell, has died of cancer, PEOPLE has learned. He was 81.

The actress’s father immigrated to the U.S. from Ireland, and worked as an electrical engineer in Comack, Long Island, during her youth. He worked as an aerospace electrical engineer for Fairchild, Schlumberger and Grumman. O’Donnell had five children.

The 53-year-old comedian’s relationship with her father was irrevocably strained after her mother, Roseann O’Donnell, died from breast cancer cancer on March 17,1973, when she was only 10. O’Donnell has said that her father dealt with Roseanne’s passing by emotionally distancing himself from the family.

“He had his own issues and demons, he had a very tough childhood, he had an alcoholic, abusive father and never really got the help that I think every person needs when they have lived through that as a child,” she told CNN’s Piers Morgan in 2012, adding, “I think that he had a lot of problems to deal with.”

While the actress said she has since forgiven her father, she added that some of his actions while raising her and her four siblings were “unforgivable.”

“You get to be 50 years old you can’t still be angry at what your father did in 1970,” she said. “You have to work it out for yourself and find a place for it in your life and not rehash it forever.”

The actress, who has five children of her own, said that “no matter what, at the end of the day, every child loves their dad.”

The star has had a tough week – her 17-year-old daughter Chelsea was found at the home of a alleged heroin addict after going missing for several days. The man, Steven Sheerer, was arrested Friday at his New Jersey home and charged with child endangerment and communication of obscenity.

Reporting by LIZ MCNEIL