Missing man has been gone a year

The long driveway with its pastured fields around the once-vibrant home of former NASCAR racer Harold Hardesty sit quiet and empty now on the north edge of Ashland. A “For Sale” sign swaying in a strong spring breeze offers no hint of the exciting life and mysterious disappearance of 86-year-old Hardesty on April 10, 2017, one year ago this week.

Hardesty vanished from his ranch on Oak Street. He was last seen walking away from his property wearing a white knit hat, black rain jacket with a hood, blue jeans and white shoes. Hardesty was known for taking long walks in the area and nothing much was thought of it, according to original Jackson County Search and Rescue reports, until he failed to return home in the afternoon.

In the weeks and months following his disappearance the sheriff’s office used on-the-ground search teams as well as air searches, but no sign of Hardesty was found.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department reported Hardesty was struggling with dementia at the time of his disappearance. The family refused comment.

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. In 1957 he raced in four Grand National races. He had eight top tens, which included five top-five finishes.

Hardesty made his living in excavation and construction, but the ranch showed his automotive passion with a small collection of race cars, trophies and photos, which he proudly shared with numerous publications, including The Tidings.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department still periodically canvases the area surrounding his 20-acre property and nearby Bear Creek, but so far there have been no leads.

Hardesty is remembered by many in Ashland as the man who entered his classic cars in the annual July Fourth parade and as a celebrated resident. “Mr. Hardesty is a local legend,” said Ashland resident Michael Crowley at the time of Hardesty’s disappearance. Rick Kitselman also expressed admiration, “(I) Watched him race many times back in the day.”

The property just outside the city limits of Ashland was listed for sale in December at an asking price of $1.5 million. It includes a two-bedroom, four-bath house on 20 acres of property.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.

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