Hate Man (right) fist-bumping a police officer in 2012. Photo: Ted Friedman

One of Berkeley’s iconic street figures, Mark Hawthorne, better known as Hate Man, died Sunday.

Hate Man died in Alta Bates Hospital around 6:30 p.m., according to a post by Dan McMullan on his Facebook page. No one seems certain about his age, but he was born in 1936, so he was 80 or 81.

“I will miss our conversations, loud discussions and arguments on just about every subject under the sun and beyond,” wrote McMullan. “Hateman loved to be ‘Outside’ and lived life without a small home but made the world his big one. Outside was where he was needed. For over half a century he was the central core to a large, dysfunctional family that many belonged to. He will be missed by all of us that knew and loved (I can hear him gagging at my sentimentality) him.”

Hate Man, who had a long white scraggly beard, and often wore a floppy hat, different colored shoes, and layers of clothes, had been living on the streets of Berkeley for about 30 years. He spent a lot of time in People’s Park where he could be seen smoking his ubiquitous Virginia Slims cigarettes and clutching a cup of coffee with lots of sugar. He eschewed the free food distributed at the park and preferred to salvage for his meals in dumpsters because, as he told the San Francisco Chronicle, “It makes your immune system strong.” He did not drink or do drugs.

“I’m addicted to it,” Hate said of the homeless life in an interview with the East Bay Express. “It’s fresh air. It’s exciting. It’s very Zen. There are problems with it, but it’s very immediate — whether it’s weather or a ticket or a psycho. Whereas rent, those are longer-term problems.”

Hate Man was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in Stamford, Connecticut, and served in the Air Force and the Peace Corps. He started work as a copy boy at the New York Times in 1961 and eventually rose — with some time off in Thailand — to be a metro reporter.

Hate Man at People’s Park. Photo: Ted Friedman

But Hate Man grew tired of the conventional 9-to-5 life and moved to the Bay Area in 1973. For about 13 years he lived in a studio near Telegraph Avenue. During this time he adopted his philosophy of “oppositionality.” He believed people would feel safe together if they rubbed one another the wrong way first. He started telling people “I hate you” as a greeting, or knocked up against them, either with a fist bump or a shoulder bump. Hate Man stood in an empty fountain on Sproul Plaza the first year of his “preaching,” according to the Express.

“For me to trust a person and be comfortable with them, they have to be willing to say ‘I hate you,’” Hawthorne told the Mercury News.

Hate Man is featured in a mural at People’s Park drawn by Bruce Duncan, Ace Backword, and other volunteers.

Hate Man was famous enough that he had a Wikipedia entry that explained his philosophy this way: “The idea is to avoid negative conflict by bringing such differences out in the open, rather than creating situations where people rob or con one another for what they want.” CBS News did a segment on him in 1997, and there were numerous newspaper articles written about him. His former employer, the New York Times, ran a column about him in 1991. He is also depicted in a mural at People’s Park.

Hate Man had been suffering from heart problems this year, according to Sally Hindman, director of Youth Spirit Artworks. He had been hospitalized three times and had heart surgery, she said. His heart apparently gave out Sunday evening.

As evidenced by the accolades pouring in, Hate Man was a beloved figure in Berkeley.

“Hate Man.. you will always be an utter Berkeley treasure,” Hindman wrote on Facebook. “Sooooo many of us will miss you absolutely hugely, when we go up to People’s Park, or to Sproul Plaza, or just when we think of you.. but we will think of you & it will bring giant smiles to our faces. Hate, you were FUN, you were loving, you were hysterically funny and delightful. You made us question our own inner feelings whenever we said HELLO…and how profound that was!!”

“The Hate Man, as he called himself, thought through a way of communicating with others based on honesty, sharing, dissipating anger by expressing it, and not being satisfied with the way things are,” John Schott, a guitarist, wrote on Facebook. “I was forever altered by my encounters with the practice he developed.”

“Talk about someone who lived his life on his own terms,” said Tom Dalzell, the labor lawyer who does the “Quirky Berkeley” website and column on Berkeleyside.

A number of the remembrances included expressions of hate — just as the Hate Man would have wanted. The Hate Man Foundation (Hee hah) Facebook group has numerous posts and photos by his friends.

Hate Man is survived by a sister and two daughters.

Friends of Hate Man will gather under his favorite acacia tree Monday, April 3, at People’s Park at 6 p.m. to remember him and discuss a way to honor him, according to McMullan on his Facebook page.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...