Harold Hardesty, 86, who vanished April 10 from his 20-acre ranch in the 1200 block of Oak Street, just outside the Ashland city limits, remains on the Jackson County Sheriff’s department radar 80 days after he went missing.
“We are still searching the area weekly,” says Lt. Jeremy Whipple of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. “We’re doing as much as we can for the moment.”
Hardesty, a former NASCAR driver who drove in nine Grand National races with six Top-10 finishes, has been missing since he went for a walk and never came back, his family said. They reported to searchers that he suffers from dementia.
His property is bucolic with a large home surrounded by white picket fences. A modern home sits nearby a larger home down the long driveway. There are ponds on the property and it is near Bear Creek.
Hardesty built a complete replica of a Gilmore gas station and kept many of his vintage cars on the property.
Family members declined to comment on Hardesty’s disappearance, but friends who know him continue to express concern that he has not yet been found. “Has Harold ever been found? “ writes Leon Warmuth. “I worked at the Chevrolet garage in Eureka Ca. when Harold came to town to race in a Nascar event at Redwood Acres in 1956. Another tech and I volunteered to be tire changes for him and his partner and Harold finished 7th or 8th.”
The fact that he has not been found and there is no trace of him or what might have happened has many, including searchers, perplexed. “There’s still chances he could have hitch hiked out of state. You never know. It’s happened in other cases,” says Whipple, although given Hardesty’s age and reports of dementia, it’s less likely.
Still, he says they do not give up on finding people. “Our Search & Rescue (team) wants to find people. Even if he has passed away the family wants closure.”
Whipple says it’s typical to continue searching for people until it becomes impossible. “They’ve called off searches for safety reasons, if the weather is too difficult or if they’re in a high elevation and snow is setting in. But in this case there is no reason to stop searching until we find him.”
Whipple did not say there is a specific time frame under which the search would be suspended.
Hardesty moved to Ashland in 1960 and, in addition to being a successful race car driver, he owned and operated an excavation and construction company.
However the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department remains interested in any possible leads. Hardesty was last seen wearing a white knit hat, a black rain jacket with a hood, blue jeans and white shoes. Anyone with information about the case can call dispatch at 541-776-7206 and refer to case no. 17-7202.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.