Jeff Haddad was a big guy. A high school football player who stood 6-foot-1 and weighed 300 pounds, he towered over most.
But friends and family say his stature paled in comparison to his bigger-than- life personality.
“He was a big guy, but he also had a big personality,” said Haddad’s wife Tina, speaking by phone and surrounded by contributing family members. “When he was in the room, everybody knew.”
Haddad, a Bakersfield father of three who was perhaps best known as the co-owner and operator of a handful of car dealerships with his two brothers and father, died Friday. He was 50 years old.
Tina said her family is unsure of the exact cause of death, but suspect it could have been a heart attack. She and Haddad had just finished a smoked brisket dinner Friday evening when Haddad went to his family’s storage unit alone to grab a couple of snowboards for an upcoming trip to Utah, Tina said. When Haddad didn’t come home, Tina headed to the storage unit.
“I went and found him collapsed on the floor,” Tina said Monday evening. “I called 9-11, but it was too late.”
An active outdoorsman, Haddad — who was born April 20, 1967, in Los Angeles to Inger and Elias “Chuck” Haddad — grew up paddleboarding, surfing, snowboarding and hunting.
Six years ago, he broke his neck hunting in Idaho when his quad flipped on its side and landed on his head, Tina said.
“He’s such a big guy, it probably would have killed anyone else,” Tina said. Instead, Haddad wore a halo brace for about five months. “He’s been in so many accidents and pulled through them.”
A father of three, Haddad hardly missed any of his kids’ sports events, Tina said. His son, Josh, played football. His daughter, Maci, is a standout senior volleyball player at Stockdale High School. Jacob, the oldest, was a golfer.
“He was their biggest fan,” Tina said. “He was passionate.”
So passionate that after Jacob graduated from college, they joined a Sunday afternoon ice hockey league together and played every week.
“He was a big guy with an even bigger heart,” Tina said one of her sons told her.
Just by looking at Haddad, you’d figure he’d own a big dog, but instead he owned a pack of pint-sized pups, including a pug named Kiwi, Tina said.
“It was his little baby. He has five little dogs and it’s hilarious. They’d all surround him,” Tina said. When somebody gave them a chihuahua, Haddad laughed, Tina added. “He said ‘I’m not walking that little dog!’ And then he’d be out there walking them. His humor sticks with you.”
What else sticks are the corny little sayings he’d say all the time.
“Let’s make like a tire and roll.”
“If you’re feeling froggy, jump.”
“Go big or go home.”
That last one was the one he’d live his life by, Tina said. Except sometimes it was kind of a farce. When he went snowboarding with friends, he’d always brag about jumping higher than anyone, “then they’d record it and he’d barely have a jump,” Tina reminisced, chuckling.
“He was a very lovable guy,” Tina said.
Haddad is survived by his wife, Tina, and three children, Maci, Josh and Jacob; his father, Elias “Chuck” Haddad; and his two brothers, James and John.