An 86-year-old Ashland man who reportedly suffers from dementia has been missing since Monday, and Jackson County Search & Rescue teams are actively searching for him.
Harold Hardesty was last seen leaving his home, in the 1200 block of Oak Street, on foot Monday, according to a Jackson County Sheriff's Office news release. He was last seen wearing a white knit hat, a black rain jacket with a hood, blue jeans and white shoes.
The sheriff's office is currently conducting searches in the area near his property and some adjacent sites. Search and rescue crews searched most of Wednesday before calling the search, then resumed Thursday, according to Capt. Tim Snaith.
Hardesty was a longtime successful stock car driver locally and in 2006 created a replica Gilmore gas station on his Oak Street property near Bear Creek in Ashland.
The 20-acre parcel features white fences and a scattering of structures. He's also kept llamas on the property.
People at the residence on the property Thursday declined to comment about the search.
Neighbors to Hardesty’s property spoke but did not wish to give names.
“I saw him in late February and he was really sharp and seemed fine,” said a neighbor who expressed concern about him missing and the report by the Sheriff’s Department that he has dementia. “He seemed fine to me.”
Searchers on Thursday were focusing on the farthest end of the property.
The report posted on Facebook by the Sheriff’s Department is receiving an outpouring of support for Hardesty.
“He is a local and NASCAR race driver, my Dad back in 67 gave him the 1957 Chevy race car #52 he still has. Hope Harold is found ok!” commented Ashland resident Steve Hickman.
“Mr. Hardesty is a local legend. So sad to hear he has Dementia,” says resident Michael Crowley. Rick Kitselman also expressed admiration and well wishes. “Watched him race many times back in the day. Hope he is found safe.”
Rhonda Burkett posts that she knew him on a professional basis. “So sad, he would come in my work every day, praying he is ok, and found fast!”
Hardesty, born in Idaho and raised in Washington before moving to Ashland in 1960, had a storied career as a race car driver.
In 1956, Harold drove in nine NASCAR Grand National races with six Top-10 finishes, only once finishing worst than he qualified due to a bearing failure in Portland. In 1957, he raced in four Grand National races but had car trouble and a crash, and only finished running in Eureka. In 16 Grand National races, he had eight Top Tens, including five Top Five finishes.
Hardesty made his living in excavation and construction, but his home property shows his passion with a small collection of classic cars and his trophies and photos, which he proudly shared with numerous publications, including The Tidings.
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department is asking for help from anyone in the public who may have some idea where Hardesty might be or if anyone has seen a person meeting his description in the area.
Anyone with information about Hardesty's whereabouts is asked to contact the sheriff's dispatch at 541-776-7206.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.