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Craig Romano

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A community searches high and low

SNOHOMISH — The map was taped together, with small notes and highlighted portions filling the map lines, detailing the streets and riv-ers of town. 
Poring over the map of where to search next was the daughter of missing postman Henry Groeneveld, Liz Dickson, who, with the support of volunteers, donated search tools and social media was continuing to look for her dad.
On that rainy Tuesday morning, Groeneveld had been gone nine days. He went missing on Monday, Dec. 11 around 9:30 a.m. after telling his wife he was going for a walk. He didn’t come home.
Dickson, Groeneveld’s second daughter from his first marriage, was determined to keep looking. She held command from the Avenue D McDonald’s, passing out flyers and looking at her pieced-together map, hoping her dad was somewhere within the lines.
“He just vanished,” Dickson said. “We’ve searched everywhere. He’s underneath the same stars as us, he has to be somewhere. He wouldn’t do this on purpose. I honestly think he got hurt or some-thing happened to him while he was out for that walk, he used to walk all over town.”
Dickson said her 63-year-old dad, a postman for 40 years, was fit due to his walk-ing all around Snohomish, even to run errands at Haggen.
Since Groeneveld’s disappearance, Dickson, her husband and her two sisters and their families along with friends and strangers have mobilized searches and shared information in order to try and find him. 
At this point, Dickson said, the police have told her it’s a “recovery mission” rather than a chance of finding a live person; which Dickson said she’s having a hard time accepting.
“I don’t want to give up, even if it’s a bad outcome,
we just have to find him,” she said.
On the rainy Tuesday morning, two young men showed up to help coordinate a search. The Smith brothers, who had been helping to look for Groeneveld since the first days, were planning to look near the Pilchuck River.
As the brothers sat with Dickson, she explained to them that she had received
a tip from a passerby claiming to have spotted her dad walking down the street. The Smith brothers, Oliver and Nolan, who live in Machias, know Snohomish well. All they had to do was wait for the sun to rise.

“Everybody from everywhere, it seems, have been coming out to help,” Dickson said. “People from all walks of life. People have come in here to tell me stories that give me hope, and sadness. This one lady told me about how her daughter went missing in the ‘90s and they never found her. I asked her, ‘why are you helping me, then?’ And she told me it’s because she wanted to give me hope. Hers was gone, but she wanted to give me hope. Another person told me about how a man was missing while on a trip to Hawaii; he had
bumped his head and lost his memory, and wandered around Hawaii for 12 years with no idea who he was or anything. Twelve years. Someone who knew him had taken a
trip there and recognized him, and he was found. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what happened to my dad. He loved our family, he wouldn’t just go like this.”
Groeneveld was involved with his grandchildren, the church ministry and volunteer work. Before he went missing, he was his grandson Kip’s Cub Scouts leader, as well as a volunteer for his granddaughter’s Awanas group, the Samaritans First Project, and a volunteer for the Monroe Men’s Prison ministry.
Random people used to approach Dickson about her dad, a much-loved postman who said hello to strangers and asked about their well-being. Dickson said the outpouring of love and support from the community
about her dad has strengthened her resolve to keep looking, even though she’s been told it may be time to move on.
“My sisters and I don’t normally agree on everything, as how most sisters are,”
Dickson said. “But they have been amazing at helping with the kids, social media, and I’ve been here (at McDonald’s) most weekdays to do this, passing out flyers and talking with people. It’s exhausting. I know someday soon we’ll have to go back to our ‘normal lives’ but how can it be normal without my dad? Every Christmas, he’d give us a roll of 100 postage stamps. He really loved the post office and believed in mailing things, he doesn’t do Facebook or a lot of TV… now this Christmas,
he may not…he won’t…. I’m bracing myself for that. Worst Christmas ever.”
But Dickson said the support of her family, husband, her sisters, friends and strangers have kept things in perspective. She’s not alone in her grief. She’s not alone in her search.
The Smith brothers returned to the McDonald’s a few hours after the sun had risen. They turned up nothing, and the river had risen several feet. With the blackberry bushes being so prominent along the shore as well, it made for a difficult search. Oliver Smith, the older of the two, had been in the Marines and knew
Groeneveld through a mutual friend at church. The younger brother, Nolan, wanted to help his oldest brother while he had the time.
“I’m sorry, we tried,” Oliver told Dickson.
“You’ve been great, no need to apologize,” she told him with a small smile.  
They all glanced down at the maps.
“I’m at this point where, I’m like ‘where do we go from here?’” she said. “I don’t know how to thank the community — the people, and all our friends and the school (Dutch Hill Elementary), the businesses — this all has been one big dark cloud over us and the people helping are like little rainbows, and I’m afraid to give up. I can’t give up.”
Dickson announced via Facebook a few days later that she was organizing one final, massive search party on Saturday, Dec. 23, which was after the Tribune’s early press time Friday morning due to the Christmas holiday on Monday. As of press time, Groeneveld still remained missing.  

 

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