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Search ends for missing Ashland man

ASHLAND — The search for an Ashland man who went missing just over a year ago has been suspended indefinitely, according to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Agency officials believe Harold Hardesty, 87, committed suicide near Bear Creek “based on evidence gathered,” according to a sheriff’s news release.

“Detectives learned Hardesty had dementia and had displayed signs of declining mental health in the weeks leading up to his disappearance,” the release said. “He had also made efforts to obtain a new firearm.”

Hardesty, who lived at a property in the 1200 block of Oak Street, was last seen by friends the evening of April 9, 2017. A family member reported him missing three days later.

Surveillance video from Hardesty’s home shows him walking out of his house the morning of April 10, 2017, carrying a case that might have contained a firearm. Deputies found the case at the edge of Bear Creek, just east of Hardesty’s home, but were unable to locate Hardesty.

Sheriff’s officials began searching the area by ground, water and air, but were unable to located Hardesty despite numerous searches. Search-and-rescue teams conducted 18 searches, with 745 hours of cumulative search time.

Hardesty was a former NASCAR driver who drove in nine Grand National races, according to a 2007 Mail Tribune story. His 20-acre property included a restored 1940 gas station he’d installed there, a nostalgic project complete with an old Coke cooler, cigarette vending machine, cash register and radio that reflect the time period.

A commenter on the Jackson County Scanner Facebook group page who said he did some work on Hardesty’s property described Hardesty as “amazing and caring.”

“It’s not enough, but I send my heartfelt condolences to his family and friends,” the comment said. “Harold was truly a great man.”

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or at 541-776-4468.

Crews search for Harold Hardesty along Bear Creek.