gemma-atkinson-dad

Strictly star Gemma Atkinson pays a very touching tribute to her late dad

David Atkinson sadly passed away when Gemma was 17

Gemma Strong

Gemma Atkinson has lovingly remembered her late father on what would have been his 70th birthday. The former Strictly star shared three snapshots on Instagram, which were accompanied by a touching message in honour of her dad David, who sadly passed away when she was 17. The first photo shows David in the pool in a black rubber ring, while the second sees him hugging Gemma beside a Christmas tree. The last image is a handwritten note that reads: "Quote: Grief never ends…but it changes. It's a passage not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith. It is the price of love."

gemma-atkinson-father

Gemma Atkinson has paid tribute to her dad on what would have been his 70th birthday

Alongside the pictures, Gemma wrote: "My Dad would have been celebrating turning 70 today. I often wonder how he’d look as an older man. My last memories were of him young, strong, carefree and fun! It breaks my heart that he won't get to meet little Mia, but the Atkinson Gene is strong, and her certain expressions remind me of him daily. I hope Mia has the same bond with Gorks as what we had... I had 17 incredible years with him and for that I'm forever grateful. Happy Birthday Dad! The castle in the sky will be lit up celebrating for you tonight I'm sure."

MORE: All of the Strictly Come Dancing stars who have survived the dreaded curse

Just last year, 35-year-old Gemma opened up about the death of her father in an interview with Happiful magazine, and how she wishes he could have met her Strictly boyfriend, Gorka Marquez. "I think he'd love him," she said of her dad. "He'd say he's a gentleman. Everyone who's met Gorka says that." Despite being a non-smoker and only drinking occasionally, David died suddenly at the age of 52 from a heart attack, and Gemma further confessed the tragedy had spurred her on to "take care of [herself]" as best as she can.

MORE: Strictly fans outraged after the winner of Christmas special is leaked online

"It hit me that life's too short," she said. "Dad was 52 and very healthy. He never smoked and only drank every few weeks – there was nothing wrong with him. Since then, I've wanted to take care of myself as best I can, and that's why I always drill that health is more important than what you look like."

Activate HELLO! alerts and find out about everything before anyone else.