One of the most interesting news stories I’ve read this summer was first published in The Surrey-North Delta Leader on July 18.
Reporter Sheila Reynolds detailed how the daughter of a Surrey woman who went missing more than 50 years ago had found out that her mother was still alive and living in the Yukon.
Surrey RCMP first published information about the case of Lucy Ann Johnson in June, as part of its periodic updates of missing persons cases. This case was one of the oldest in the detachment’s files, going back to 1961, although Johnson was first reported missing in 1965 by her husband. He later stated to police that he actually hadn’t seen her since September 1961.
When I heard about the circumstances of her disappearance, my assumption was that her husband was involved more than he had admitted. Maybe Lucy had been murdered and her body concealed.
Police did a thorough excavation of the Johnson property near 104 Avenue and 144 Street and turned up no evidence. While Lucy’s husband had been seen digging on the property, he was in fact digging a septic field.
There was never any evidence of a murder, and thus it remained a missing persons case. Surrey RCMP took the time and trouble to once again publicize the case, despite the lengthy interval of years.
And amazingly, the story had a very unexpected twist. In fact, the story is continuing, and the ending still hasn’t been written.
Surrey resident Linda Evans did some intensive searching through newspapers in the Yukon for information about her mother after police reopened the case. She reasoned that her mother had come from that area originally (she was born in Alaska), and may well have gone back there after leaving Surrey.
And in a term often used in the days of the Klondike gold rush, she struck pay dirt.
The initial June 28 story in The Leader stated that: “For Evans, finding out what happened to her mom, after all these years, would provide at least some answers to a mystery that has haunted her since childhood.
“I would like to know before I die,” Evans said. “She’s got grandkids and great-grandkids.”
She began doing research and placed an ad in the Yukon News in Whitehorse, detailing her mother’s name, place and date of birth, and her grandparents’ names.
She almost immediately got some information, and received a phone call from a woman who said she believed Lucy was also her mother, and was alive and well and living in the Yukon.
Evans has three new half-siblings and is hoping to see her mother again soon. She has talked to her mother on the phone and can hardly wait to see her.
As is the case with many people, financial constraints are preventing her from going immediately. Letter writer Loriann Herchuk has suggested that either an airline donate the flight to Evans or that people chip in to help her get that chance.
That’s a great suggestion and I hope that someone will take up the challenge. There is a bond between a child and a mother that is hard to completely define or even understand. Evans needs to have the chance to see her mother again and get to know her, 52 years after she last saw her.
That would be the perfect ending to an amazing story.
Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.