Don Hale: Founder Of Hires Big H, Dies At Age 93: Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY - The founder and owner of Hires Big H restaurants died Saturday, Jan. 29, at the age of 93.

During the past 50 years, Hires Big H has become a destination eating establishment in Salt Lake City. To eat at Hires was to know Don Hale.  

Hale created his dream job at age 40, never imagining that Hires Drive-In would blossom into an iconic experience that became part of life for generations of families. They didn't come simply for the food. Hale sat and talked to people about their lives. 

"He was never into it for money or acclaim or prestige, he was into it because he loved work and he loved people and he wanted to provide good things for them," Mark Hale said of his father. "The feeling really is acceptance, love, appreciation - what's mine is yours and you are always welcome and safe in my domain."

Born in Grantsville, the family moved to Idaho to farm for a few years. They later moved to Salt Lake where at age 10, Don Hale began working at his parent's grocery store.

He and his wife, Shirley, started the drive-in business - now three Hires stores and Litza's Pizza - believing they brought a bit of home into the restaurant. He retired at 90.

"He would always say, 'There's many rules to succeed but none of them work unless you do,'" Mark Hale said.

His family and employees say that when you came to the restaurant, you weren't just a customer, you became part of his family.  

"He really wanted everyone to feel part of the Hale family," Mark Hale said. "He really loved people. He really accepted them. We feel they were part of his life and he was part of theirs. Really, he was a friend to everyone in the community and everyone who wanted to come and dine at his restaurant." 

"One of the things he taught me is how to greet and seat and treat everyone like they're part of your family," Jim Merrill, the general manager at Hires Drive-In in Salt Lake since 1987. "That was very important to him and it's very important to me, still."

Don Hale's family has been caring for him at his home for the past three years. Jim Merrill says he has been greatly missed at Hires. 

"A question that I get asked everyday, at least a half a dozen to a dozen times during the lunchtime, 'How's Don doing? I haven't seen him for awhile and is Don OK?'" Merrill said. "He retired at 90. We all should be that lucky to be able to work that long in the business you love."

Jay and Marlie Dansie have driven from Layton for many years to eat lunch at what they call the gathering place. 

We're an old friend of the Big H and Don Hale," said Jay Dansie, wiping away tears." So, we're going to miss him but we'll be here, we'll be here, once a week."

Don Hale was a respected businessman, both a former state legislator and city councilman. His vision, friends say, will remain a testament to his life of hard work and service to so many. 

Don Hale's favorite lunch - a hamburger and pineapple malt. 

He is survived by four children, 19 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. 

Carole Mikita, "Don Hale, founder of Hires Big H, dies at age 93," Deseret News, Monday, January 31, 2011.

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