H.B. London, the man to whom many pastors turned when they were troubled, beaten down or challenged, has died at the age of 81 after a long fight with cancer.

He had spent the past few years ministering in a retirement community in Southern California.

James Dobson, who founded Focus on the Family and later the James Dobson Family Institute, which now broadcasts his daily Family Talk radio programs, described how he and his cousin, their mothers being sisters, “grew up like brothers.”

“We were very, very close from toddlerhood all the way through childhood. Every vacation, every holiday, every summer we were together, and that comradery continued right to the end of his life,” he said.

“I was the best man at H.B. and Beverley’s marriage, and three years later he was the best man at my marriage to Shirley. You don’t get much closer than that. Nevertheless, we were fierce competitors, just like brothers often are,” he continued.

During their college years, he explained, he and London were roommates, “and we nearly killed each other during that first year.

“But the love we shared for one another just grew stronger through the years. When we graduated from college, H.B. went off to Nazarene Seminary in Kansas City, and I headed for U.S.C. to get a Ph.D., but we stayed in touch. H.B. served as a pastor for 31 years, and he joined me at Focus on the Family as a pastor to pastors, and he served hundreds and hundreds of ministers, many of whom struggled with the burdens of the pastorate and of leadership in the church,” Dobson said.

“I’ve never known anyone who worked harder than H.B., that was the indefatigable energy that he had because he loved his work and he loved pastors. H.B. wanted to do everything that he could to help them cope with the trials and struggles that were coming their way.”

Dobson, who has served as adviser to five presidents, earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in child development with a minor in research design.

He’s a member of the National Radio Hall of Fame.

London spent two decades at Focus after he joined Dobson there, and it was during that time promotions began for Clergy Appreciate Month as a national observance every October.

He was a fourth-generation minister and still held the title of pastor to pastors emeritus for Focus, the organization said.

“There are some people who have been uniquely called by God and gifted by God to carry a load others can’t bear alone,” Moody Radio host Chris Fabry said of London. “H. B. was one of those people.”

He was, reported Christianity Today, survived by his wife, two children and grandchildren.

He was living in Palm Desert, California, when he died.

A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, born in 1936, he held pulpit positions for 31 years with the Church of the Nazarene.

A memorial is schedule Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Palm Desert Community Presbyterian Church, Palm Desert, California.

On his Facebook page, his family posted a message.

“We have always been astounded and blessed by the affection and gratitude many of you expressed (either in letters, in person and here on Facebook) for the man we knew as father, our ‘Papa’, and husband. HB was a friend and pastor to so many over the years, and his dedication to God’s work – as well as his calling to minister to and foster a greater understanding and appreciation for the clergy who lead us today – is evident in the many lives he encountered. We believe with great joy and certainty in our hearts that the Lord has used him mightily in this lifetime. To borrow from one of the lines he used often in his sermons, ‘He did what he could, with what he had, with what he was given.’”