IT was not uncommon for Michael McGowan to cook meals for those in need.
His proud family, "which meant the world to him", says those acts of generosity emphasised the Warrnambool man's community-minded spirit.
Michael, a chef by trade, died suddenly on Saturday, aged 46.
His loving wife Tanya McGowan, whom he'd been with for 30 years after doing their deb together as teenagers, said Michael's selfless nature would live on through their three children - Bayley, 21, Hannah, 18, and Bella, 12 - who embodied similar traits.
"He did it literally all the time," Tanya said of his volunteering.
"Our children went to St Joseph's Primary School and he was heavily involved whenever anyone was unwell within our parish, going through cancer or what we are going through now, and he would cook people meals for six or 12 months.
"No questions asked, he just donated so much of his time.
"He was a very proud, quiet man and he put himself last. With these things he did, no one knew."
Michael's loss is being felt across numerous community groups across south-west Victoria.
The businessman - he ran Reunion restaurant and then City Bistro with Tanya before switching to carpet cleaning - was heavily involved in the Warrnambool basketball scene and had a passion for horse racing.
He gave up his work in the hospitality business to spend more time with his family.
Tanya said Michael, who was born in Mildura and grew up in Wentworth, had a friendly nature.
"There was a joke in our family because I grew up there and he'd only been there for 20-odd years and he probably knows 90 per cent of Warrnambool," she said.
"We used to call him Mr Warrnambool.
"He was really gentle, a gentle giant."
Bayley said his dad had an ability to connect with people from all walks of life.
"He was such a community-minded person, you could just tell walking down the street with him because 50 people would stop him and say 'g'day Mick, how are you?'," he said.
"He'd know each person and what was going on in their life and what to talk about and what to ask them."
Hannah remembers helping her dad create a special option on the Reunion restaurant menu when the family ran the business which highlighted his desire to help others.
"Dad and I teamed up together and we created a meal called The Swag Burger and 100 per cent of the profit was towards swags for the homeless," she said.
Tanya has received messages since her husband's passing which shine a light on his generosity.
"We've had people who he gave a chance to and employed, when they were down on their luck," she said.
"He has literally changed their lives and they now have successful businesses and families."
Basketball became a passion for Michael when Bayley started playing a decade ago.
He rose to Warrnambool Basketball Inc president - a role he held for nine years - and formed a father-son coaching team, taking junior representative teams away to tournaments across Victoria.
Michael's funeral, which is yet to be finalised, will be "a celebration of his life".
"We welcome everybody because that's what Michael did - he had an open-door policy at our home," Tanya said.
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