Many folks in the Jackson metro are mourning this holiday weekend the loss of Hal White. Hal died Thursday following complications from an aneurysm. He and his brother, Malcolm White, opened Hal and Mal's Restaurant and Brewery in Downtown Jackson nearly three decades ago.
Now, there's an empty feeling inside Hal & Mal's, a feeling like something's missing.
"Every time you walked into this restaurant, he was at his spot at the bar, leaned over, talking to everybody and welcoming them in," says Marika Cackett from the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau. "He was a fixture."
Now, very abruptly, Hal White is gone.
"First person I talked to everyday for seven years," says Hal & Mal's assistant manager, Erin Pearson.
Pearson showed us some of Hal's personal keepsakes: his chef jacket, his calendar with obligations still to attend and his barstool.
"That was his spot," says Pearson. "It's where he ate, it's where he talked, it's where he drank his Coors Heavy!"
It's still his spot, reserved for Hal, forever. The restaurant will set up a memorial for him at the end of the bar.
Cackett says Hal was a living advertisement for the city he loved.
"Whenever we would bring travel writers in and guests to come to Jackson, I'd always bring them here to at least have one beer and meet Hal," she says.
Beyond the barstool, Hal White was a philanthropist. He and his brother Malcolm award a scholarship each year to honor their dad, a former President of Northeast Mississippi Junior College, now Northeast Mississippi Community College.
"He was more than a boss," says Pearson. "Just like he was more than a friend to everybody that knew him."
But what Hal was most known for was his soup.
"Every Friday, you better believe I was at that bar eating a grilled cheese sandwich and his seafood bisque," says Cackett.
"Maybe God wanted to laugh," says Pearson. "Maybe God wanted some soup."
Hal and his brother Mal are considered pioneers in the Jackson restaurant scene. Cackett says they opened their restaurant when others were closing and moving out of town.
Jeff Good, who owns BRAVO!, Sal & Mookie's and Broad Street Baking Co. & Café calls Hal "The dean of the Jackson restaurant scene." He also says "Quietly for 30 years, Hal served an outstanding and consistent product on Commerce St."
Hal White's visitation will take place Monday morning 9:00 until 10:45 at St. Richards Catholic Church. A mass of resurrection will take place at 11:00. A wake celebrating Hal's life will take place Monday night at Hal & Mal's from 6:00 until 9:30.