“Bubba was the greatest brother who was loved by so many people," Deen said in a statement to PEOPLE.
Paula Deen is mourning the loss of her younger brother and former business partner, Earl “Bubba” Wayne Hiers Jr., who died at 65 on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Bubba was the greatest brother who was loved by so many people,” Deen, 72, said in a statement to PEOPLE. “We will miss him dearly.” Hiers was the only sibling of the former Food Network star. The two grew up in Albany, Ga., to parents Corrie A. Hiers and Earl Wayne Hiers, Sr., both of whom died before Deen was 23.
Deen and Hiers were also joint partners at their restaurant Uncle Bubba’s Oyster House, which was located in Savannah, Ga., but abruptly closed its doors in 2014.
Uncle Bubba’s had been a fixture in Savannah for 10 years prior to its closing, but was the center of controversy when Deen and Hiers were sued for harassment by a former employee in 2012. The space is now home to Deen’s newest restaurant, Paula Deen’s Creek House, a business venture with her sons Bobby and Jamie Deen.
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Hiers leveraged his sister’s culinary fame to pen his own cookbook, Uncle Bubba’s Savannah Seafood, which was released in 2007 with a foreword written by Deen. According to USA Today, Hiers sang her praises in the book’s introduction: “Without Paula’s support, sensible advice, and unconditional love, I’d probably be a lost soul,” he wrote at the time.
Hiers’ obituary notes that he was preceded in death by his son, Jay Paul Hiers, and leaves behind a daughter and son-in-law, Corrie and Brian Rooks, and a grandson, Sullivan Way Rooks.
His funeral will be held on Friday at Kimbrell-Stern Funeral Directors, and the family has requested donations be made to the Mayo Clinic.