MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Employees of Memphis-based awards and apparel company Champion say they're shocked and saddened at the news of the death of their company's longtime leader.
Mike Bowen died Saturday in a car accident while on vacation in Costa Rica, leaving behind his wife and two sons.
According to his bio on the Champion website, Bowen had been president and CEO of the business since 2000, after co-founding it in 1978. His wife is vice president and CEO of the company. The company says it has produced over 50 million screen-printed and embroidered products since 1979.
Many employees said Monday they considered him family.
"He meant so much to so many people," said Bill Kincade, Bowen's business partner for more than 30 years. "Everybody is looking for understanding."
Bowen's wife was in the car too, but only suffered cuts and bruises. They had been on vacation for over two weeks and said just a couple of days ago they were having the time of their lives.
Back in Memphis, it was a difficult day but business continued as usual Monday.
This tight-knit company comforted its employees as many struggled to realize the man who helped build their entire brand was not coming back.
"We are dedicated to making sure that we don't stumble," Kinkade said. "We continue that mission that he started."
As awards and plaques showed, Bowen was a hardworking man. Employees say he was dedicated to building a company with a great atmosphere, not only here, but in the city of Memphis.
"He was very committed to the Memphis area. This was his city he was very proud of that," Kinkade said.
Bowen was an alumnus of University of Memphis, and served the community with the Memphis Jaycees, Leadership Memphis, Special Olympics, the Memphis Convention Bureau, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Beale Streets Merchants Association and Tiger Scholarship Fund.
Funeral arrangements are set for Saturday at Hope Church, with a memorial from 11-1 and a service at 1:30.