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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Memorial fund launched to honor lightning-strike victim William Friend, husband of ‘One Tree Hill’ star

William Friend died after being struck by lightning on Masonboro Island over the weekend. He was married to “One Tree Hill” star Bevin Prince. (Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON — Friends and family are honoring a man who passed away over the holiday weekend after he was struck by lightning near Masonboro Island.

A Go Fund Me launched Wednesday in tribute to William Friend, with the goal to raise $250,000 to be donated to two causes friends say were near and dear to him.

READ MORE: Man struck by lightning on Masonboro Island identified, confirmed dead

One is the Special Operators Transition Foundation, which works to support veterans and their families. The Go Fund Me page details that “Will was passionate about any cause that honored our brave servicemen and women.”

Funds will also go to Recess, a fitness brand that Friend opened in 2019 with his wife and “One Tree Hill” actress Bevin Prince. The business, located in the Mayfaire area, is closed this week, as noted on its social media platform Wednesday:

“We greatly appreciate the outpouring of love and support we’ve received from our Recess community. Will’s knowledge, guidance, and support is the foundation that Recess is built on.”

Friend and Prince married in 2016 and moved to Wrightsville Beach from New York City during the pandemic. Prince lived in the area previously in the mid-2000s while she starred as cheerleader Bevin Mirskey on the CW show “One Tree Hill,” filmed in Wilmington from 2003 to 2012.

Prince’s costars, including Hilarie Burton and Sophia Bush, rallied support around their friend on social media Thursday as well.

“Heartbroken and at a loss. Our family is grieving one of our own. Please lift up #BevinPrince in whatever way you are able. Show her the love She deserves, the love her husband Always showed her,” Bush posted.

“In every group of friends, there’s always the ‘strong one,'” Burton posted. “They’re the ones who show up when things are difficult. They bring laughter and light to dark corners. It’s important to protect those friends, cause they’ll never ask for help. Our friend @bevinaprince is one of those strong ones. She is light personified.”

Burton shared the Go Fund Me page, adding that Friend and Prince valued community, especially the soulcycle community they were growing in Wilmington.

According to the Recess posting, the couple’s business was possible because of Friend’s passion for entrepreneurship.

“There was nothing Will respected or valued more than the American Dream,” it stated, “and women in business. We know he wanted to see this business continue to great success and lead to the employment of many more people. Creating rewarding and meaningful jobs for others was the legacy Will wanted to leave.”

Friend also was the CEO at Bisnow, a B2B platform for the commercial real estate industry. It’s a position Friend obtained at only 27 years old after having climbed his way up the corporate ladder, a career that began upon his college graduation.

Bisnow published a piece in the wake of its leader’s death, noting Friend’s accomplishments included expanding the company to include “650 annual digital and live events in 50 international territories, 11 million news readers and more than 250 employees across the U.S., Canada, the UK and Ireland.”

However, it also noted Friend’s impact went beyond numbers. It stated his infectious confidence and go-getting demeanor as uplifting qualities others admired.

“What made Will special was his innate ability to inspire and motivate people — to raise people higher than they thought possible,” Bisnow COO and CFO Gregg Mayer said in a statement. “That is the culture he fostered at Bisnow and, ultimately, that will be his lasting legacy.”

The piece noted Friend, born in London in 1988, was even more passionate about family, including his wife.

On Sunday, July 3, Friend was celebrating the holiday weekend near Masonboro Island, a popular boating destination in the Atlantic Ocean, located 5 miles southeast of Wilmington. New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and the Wilmington Police Department marine units responded to a call that a man had been struck by lightning, according to NHCSO Lt. Jerry Brewer.

When authorities arrived, Friend was unconscious aboard a boat. Officers moved him onto the marine unit and rendered CPR, while transporting him to Bradley Creek Marina to meet EMS crews. Medical officials then continued CPR but eventually pronounced Friend deceased.

He was 33 years old. Read his formal obituary, also published on Port City Daily, here.


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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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