CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- The owner of a popular Carolina Beach restaurant has died. Michael McGowan and his wife owned Michael's Seafood, perhaps best known for its award-winning seafood chowder.
The 46-year-old had cystic fibrosis. He died last night at Duke University Hospital.
While McGowan may be known best for his restaurant, to his many friends he was much more.
"What can I say about Michael? Michael is one of the most wonderful, kind, genuine people you could ever meet," Cynthia Remahl said. "A pillar in this community. I can't say enough for how much he has given to this community."
People streamed in to the restaurant Wednesday bringing flowers and good wishes.
"He wasn't just a boss, he was our friend, we're going to really miss him," said Aris Axelgard, a manager at Michael's Seafood.
McGowan and his wife Shelly worked together to build Michael's Seafood.
He won a number of cooking competitions, including the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Great Chowder Cook-Off in Newport, RI. But McGowan wasn't just all about chowder.
"Then he would go over to the soccer fields. They always sponsored teams," Remahl said. "He coached. They were out and about and involved, always doing things in the community, always donating to the community and giving to various organizations."
McGowan suffered from cystic fibrosis since he was a child and championed the fight against the disease. He and his family hosted the Shrimp Open Golf Tournament every year and raised almost $400,000 for CF and lung transplant research.
Around Carolina Beach, people remember their friend.
"Mike was just a good guy," Dan Wilcox said. "He was willing to help out. He believed in his causes. Mike and Shelly are one of the reasons that our town is what it is; people like that. They have been a wonderful part of our town, and he's going to be missed."
McGowan is a man who served his community. It is not easy to say goodbye.
"We love you, and we'll miss you," Axelgard said. "We know you're in a better place, and you're not in pain any more, and we're going to miss you."
McGowan's funeral will be at Lifepoint Church in Wilmington Monday at 11 a.m.