Sunday, February 1, 2009

ARTICLE #143) Holidays bring grief for local families with missing relatives

Holidays bring grief for local families with missing relatives
Prince George Citizen By Frank Peebles
Thursday, Januray 8, 2009

Families gather at Christmas and year's end to celebrate and share good company. That love and fellowship can be twisted into intense grief if one of those family members is a missing person.

A number of households in the Prince George area suffered through that anguish over these holidays.

"It was pretty hard for the family over the holidays, nobody hearing anything. That's scary for people, its hard to take," said Dean Joseph, talking about his missing cousin Bonnie Joseph, 32, who was caught up in a drug addiction when she disappeared last summer.

"Her two brothers are really taking it hard. She has two sisters as well and she has three kids also in ministry care. They lost their parents years ago, too. They are very sad."

Luke Degerness has been missing for a year and a half since he left a meeting at the principal's office and failed to return to class. His mother Gina held a vigil for him in mid December to spark hopes that he would surface for Christmas.

"It is horrible as usual. No word, no sightings, no e-mail," said Gina. "But I was very impressed by how many people showed up when it was so cold. We all lit candles, I had a good cry, and Luke is turning 16 at the end of this month so it made me think of how I had to keep getting up to look after my little one.

"There are a lot of broken hearts with all the wondering and the waiting, and...nothing. It is just really hard when you don't know what happened."

In Kamloops, Glendene Grant was surrounded by three of her daughters this Christmas, plus a grandchild turning one on Christmas Day and another grandson due any day. But Jessie Foster, Grant's fourth daughter, has been missing for the past three years since she disappeared in Las Vegas and is believed to be a human trafficking victim.

"I just can't seem to get into the spirit anymore. Christmas Day 2005 was the last time I ever laid eyes on my daughter Jessie. We still talked for the next three months and four days, but I have never laid my eyes on my beautiful daughter since that day. So, you can imagine, that takes the joy out of my Christmas and I am sure always will, until I find my Jessie."

Hope is almost an obligation felt by many with missing loved ones, said Tony Romeyn, who is in constant contact with dozens of families who have missing relatives. Romeyn is a Prince George businessman who runs, as a free community service, the and (among others) websites.

He said the Dec. 5 arrest of a suspect in the 11-year-old case of Wendy Ratte has had a powerful impact on those living in that limbo.

"I was awestruck. People having their hope renewed is what they need," he said. "So often we don't see results, and it looks like nothing is being done, and then to see this gives some hope to people, especially just before Christmas."

If anyone knows anything about the whereabouts or activities of Luke Degerness, Bonnie Joseph or any missing person, call the RCMP (250-561-3300) or Crime Stoppers (1-800-222-TIPS /