Family and former co-workers of Rollin Smoke Barbeque head chef Timothy Hanson remember him as a smiling man who wanted to make everyone feel welcome.
After serving eight years in the Marines, Hanson spent the rest of his life welcoming people into his home with soul food and promising to be an involved dad, Tai Hanson and Choyce Guice, two of his six children, said in an interview Wednesday.
“Soul food is more than collard greens and fried fish, it’s food that you made with your heart,” Tai Hanson said. “Whether he was trying something new or doing a recipe, it was always from the heart.”
Timothy Hanson, 54, and Mildred Olivo, 71, were fatally shot around 10 p.m. on June 25 while standing in the backyard of a home on the 4400 block of Mossy Rock Court. Las Vegas police were called by the shooter, Andrew Cote, who claimed to have a long-standing feud with his neighbors. Cote, 36, now faces two counts of murder.
Dimitrius Blackmon, Timothy Hanson’s cousin, said the two victims were friends, but Olivo feared her neighbors.
“She was in fear of her life and he went over to protect her,” Blackmon wrote in a message to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He was an amazing father and grandfather and friend.”
She also called Timothy Hanson an “amazing” chef and host who did everything with love and compassion.
‘Larger than life’
He had carried his love of food from his hometown of Akron, Ohio, where he raised most of his children, to Rancho Cucamonga, California, where in 2009 he opened Chef Timothy’s with Spices.
At the end of 2011, Tai Hanson said, her dad was ready for another fresh start and moved to Las Vegas, where he helped build Rollin Smoke Barbeque “from the ground floor.”
“He’s larger than life. He made an impression to anyone who ever knew him. He made you feel like the most important customer,” Tai Hanson said. “I did have the opportunity to go to a couple catering events. It was always a party.”
Rollin Smoke co-founder and manager Dusty Ardoin said Friday he had only been in Las Vegas a month when Timothy Hanson walked up to the barbecue pit and asked him if he knew how to cook the meat.
“My first thought when he came up from the pit and he questioned me? This guy’s got some confidence for sure,” Ardoin said. “I was definitely taken back.”
But Ardoin said he, his older brother, John, and Timothy Hanson became fast friends, and his brother worked with Timothy Hanson to make the menu the restaurant has today. Ardoin said Timothy Hanson’s work ethic made him want to uphold the same standard.
“I didn’t want to let him down,” Ardoin said. “We spent a lot of time at work, the stories that we would tell about our families and just about the commitment to excellence. He taught me how to come to work every day with a great mindset.”
‘Such a happy person’
Guice said her father was in foster care beginning at age 2, and the void from being a foster child drove his hospitality.
“His compassion for other people, him being adopted, drove his compassion,” she said. “He didn’t like for people to feel like outsiders. He was very welcoming.”
Guice remembers that when she was a child growing up in Akron, the backyard shed was filled with games and food, and the pond adjacent to it was always full of friends her father had welcomed over.
Timothy Hanson also became an advocate for the Weed for Warriors Nevada Project, an advocacy group pushing for marijuana rehabilitation for veterans, and enrolled in the National Guard after 9/11, his daughters said.
“He was such a happy person. He did have so much joy to share with others,” Tai Hanson said. “It’s not fair that could be taken away from others or us because we made him happy, too. When you see pictures of him standing with us, it’s like the biggest smile.”
Timothy Hanson was married and divorced four times. He is survived by his six children: Ronald, Ryan and Tai Hanson, all 31, Guice, 30, Tim Hanson II, 29, and Alana Hanson, 6.
Rollin Smoke Barbeque has three locations, which remain open: 3185 S. Highland Drive, 4115 S. Grand Canyon Drive and 725 Las Vegas Blvd. South. Ardoin said they haven’t found a new head chef because “those kinds of people can’t be replaced.”