The man known for his famous hamburgers is being remembered just as much for his kindness and community spirit.
Mike Hardin, the owner of the popular Hodad’s in Ocean Beach, Downtown and Petco Park died Thursday in a hotel room in Central California. The Madera County Sheriff's Department said staff discovered Hardin's body at a Holiday Inn in Chowchilla just after 2 p.m. Thursday.
"Mike was one of the most generous people I have ever known and he embraced life with a tremendous amount of appreciation," said Food Network host Guy Fieri, who featured the burger joint on his show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."
News of Hardins death is being felt across the country, but especially in Ocean Beach.
“I’m deeply saddened. Mike Harden is a legend. Today he’s a legend. Yesterday, he was a celebrity,” said Frank Gormlie, the longtime editor of the OB Rag.
Gormlie recalled Harden’s early days, flipping burgers for his parents at the original Hodad’s at the beach.
“Mike use to make these monster burgers for his friends, his surfer runners. They’d come in and he would make them big monster burgers. So after his dad died he said ‘well, I’m gonna try these monster burgers for everybody for six months and I’ll see what happens’ and here we are, top burger in the country,” said Gormlie.
Throughout the day, people have been adding flowers and momentos to a growing memorial outside the front door of Hodad’s in Ocean Beach.
All of the restaurants will be closed until Sunday morning. In a sad twist, the Hodad’s in Ocean Beach was scheduled to be closed on Saturday to allow employees to attend a memorial for a former employee.
“He was a great part of the Ocean Beach community,” said Chana Groh, who left a giant photo of Hardin at the memorial.
“He would never turn down a request for a donation. He would always help everybody in the community. He’s given a lot of people chances, and people always supported him, especially in Ocean Beach,” said Ted Caplaneris who owns the Old Townhouse restaurant.
One man recalled Hardin once took a trip overseas to visit U.S. troops.
“It’s a bummer to see this guy die. He did a lot for the G.I.’s, just giving us a little bit of San Diego, a little bit of the United States. It’s incredible to have that,” said Anthony Chavez.
And of course, there were the type of stories that you would expect from this colorful community.
“To let you know how big his heart was, my friend down here at the tattoo shop went to prison, and so Mike donated 500-hamburgers that cooked up to try to raise attorney fees,” said Daniel Deaton.
Hundreds left comments on NBC 7's Facebook page, remembering his personable nature and lauding his restaurant as one of San Diego's best.
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