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Letter: Issaquah Police Locate Missing Mercer Islander in Issaquah

Local resident Nancy Hilliard sent in to Mercer Island Patch the following account of a harrowing 10-hour search on April 5-6 for her husband, Bob Hilliard.

It's an old saw--that "it takes a village" to raise a child or get a tough job done.
 
It was the latter on the night of April 5. It began at 7:45 p.m. when 72-year-old Bob, in advancing stages of Alzheimer's Disease, put on 3 layers of clothing and slipped out the door of his Mercer Island home for a walk--without anyone knowing it. Once his absence was discovered, his wife and two of his adult kids began car searches of the immediate area, to no avail. 911 was called around 8:50 p.m. and the police went into gear with 3 squad cars scouring every inch of the Island. Officer John Haraway took charge of the search, and assured us that "in 99.99 percent of these cases" the missing is found.
 
Yet, by 11 p.m. still no Bob. The King County Search and Rescue volunteer teams and five dogs were called iinto action. A pair of Bob's shoes were given the dogs to track him. Unfortunately, Bob's and his wife's trails are all over the Island, peripatetic walkers that they are. John kept assuring the family that the 99-percent rule still was at work, even though all Bob's island trails were dead ends.
 
A reverse 911 call went out--a phone call to neighbors and all possible places on the island that could provide likely feedback on Bob's whereabouts. Grocery stores were visited, Metro was phoned, the police even went so far as Bellevue in their outreach. An all-points bulletin went out on a missing senior citizen, a version of an "Amber Alert." At midnight, a biker stopped by the family, still out on the walking trails, and offered to ride across the East Channel Bridge and the trails to the east, where cars cannot go. He kept up his hunt beyond 1 p.m.
 
Shortly after 3 p.m., neighbors who had received the reverse 911 call, were huddling with Bob's wife in the street to say a group prayer to St. Anthony -- finder of the lost. Still no Bob. The temperature had dropped into the 30s, and concern for hypothermia arose. Officer Haraway was way beyond his shift by now, refusing to leave the duty until it resulted in Bob's return. At 4 p.m. he phoned the still-waiting family.
 
"I'm bringing Bob home to you," he said. "He was found 10 miles away in Issaquah, where he had knocked on someone's door, complaining about being cold." This family had called 911 and the Issaquah police picked Bob up and relayed the message to the MI police, which had issued the APB.
 
Shortly after Bob's return, an Aid Unit was sent to determine his state of possible hypothermia, dehydration, cuts, etc. His 96-degree temperature called for hot drinks, extra blankets and raising the furnace temp. But otherwise, Bob had survived his odyssey, with little understanding about all the fuss. His dementia, of course, blocked little understanding for the why's and wherefore's.
 
The entire 8-hour ordeal had involved 56 humans and five dogs to find Bob. The family is so grateful to the MI police and fire staffs, the Issaquah police, the KC Search and Rescue volunteers, the biker who took up the cause in the middle of the night, the supportive neighbors, the communications relayers, the dogs, and the dedicated efforts of John Haraway, which went way beyond the call of duty.
 
Let us all know what a grand village we live in!. Gratefully, Nancy, Bob, Curt, Michael, Shelly and Karin Hilliard

Kim Hilliker April 09, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Thanks for the Great Story! It is wonderful that Mercer Island residents and all the police departments worked together for a happy ending!
Jeanne Gustafson April 09, 2012 at 07:42 PM
I agree, Kim, and it's so great that Bob got safely home to his family.

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