Fans Loved Proud Sea Cowboy Devoted to Sons Ocean of grief greets fierce skipper's passing By Mary Papenfuss, Newser User Posted Feb 11, 2010 2:56 AM CST 18 comments Comments Phil Harris, the fishing boat captain whose adventures off the Alaska coast were captured on the television show "Deadliest Catch," died of a massive stroke at the age of 53. (AP Photo/Discovery Channel, Blair Bunting) (Newser) – The surprise death of popular Deadliest Catch skipper Phil Harris triggered an ocean of grief among fans who fell hard for the rascally, lion-hearted captain. The gritty fisherman who stared down danger seeking crab in the most treacherous seas in the world became the public's new all-American cowboy: fierce, proud, independent. But his love for his two sons who worked with him also made Harris, 53, a viewer favorite among the captains featured on the hit reality series, notes the Christian Science Monitor. By midday yesterday some 75 pages of condolences filled the Discovery Channel's website as fans learned that Harris had succumbed to a massive stroke he suffered last month as he unloaded his boat in Alaska. "He was a heck of man. Tough as nails and he loved his boys. Just makes me cry," wrote flightrisk. "We need more like him, he was one of my heroes," said tazsugs in Newser. Added blues_junky: "Hell of a tough guy. RIP, Phil."