George Sharkey, owner of Mulligan’s restaurant in downtown Biddeford, died Monday after a short battle with cancer. He was 69.

Mr. Sharkey opened the first Mulligan’s restaurant in Windham in 1977 and expanded with locations in South Portland and Portland.

He operated the restaurants for several years before taking a short hiatus. In 1997, he opened Mulligan’s in Biddedord’s mill district.

The iconic restaurant is off the beaten path and known for its affordable menu, ambitious beer selection and friendly atmosphere. It’s a popular place for locals and tourists to dine with family and friends. Everything on the menu is $5 or less.

Mr. Sharkey was a fixture at the restaurant, putting in long hours every day until he got sick. He pretty much knew everyone by name.

“He was such a social butterfly,” said his wife, Beth Sharkey of Saco. “He enjoyed the people. You always knew he had a good story, that’s for sure. He had a memory like a steel trap.”

Mr. Sharkey was remembered by loved ones Tuesday as a kind and generous man who treated his staff and patrons like family.

His wife shared stories of the small ways he made a difference in people’s lives.

“George would reach in his pocket to help anyone,” she said. “He was a mentor and a father figure. He gave away one of the waitresses at her wedding. Another waitress said he was the father she never had.”

She shared another story of a Friday night gathering of women in their 80s. She said the women got all dolled up for their big night out.

“It was the cutest little group,” Mrs. Sharkey said. “The first thing they did was look for George for their hug and kiss. They thought he was the cat’s meow.”

Mulligan’s has seen little turnover throughout the years. Most of the staff have been there for more than a decade.

Mr. Sharkey “was an amazing guy,” said Steve Pinkos, the kitchen manager, who has worked at the restaurant for 14 years. “He would always go out of his way to help people.”

Since Mr. Sharkey’s death, patrons of Mulligans have gathered at the bar to share stories of him.

“People from all over are coming in and reaching out,” Pinkos said.

Mulligan’s posted the news of his passing on its Facebook page. As of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the post had drawn 138 comments and 240 shares.

“Rest in peace, George. You were a great man that made everyone feel at home in your place,” wrote Mike Berg.

Mr. Sharkey generously gave back to the community. His obituary, which was published in Tuesday’s newspaper, said he sponsored city and college athletic programs and donated to local events and charities. He was dedicated to buying local.

In April, he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which had metastasized to his liver.

On Jan. 16, Mr. Sharkey and his wife married after being together for 33 years. He was home receiving hospice care.

“Instead of getting dressed up, we all wore pajamas,” his wife said. “It was the best day. I had this light-up veil that someone bought me for $2. He had a smile from ear to ear.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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