Ketchikan holds vigil for missing

More than 125 people came out in the light rain and crisp breeze of Thursday evening for a prayer vigil on behalf of four men who have been missing in Ketchikan.

Some of the friends, family members and acquaintances present carried signs bearing pictures of two of the missing men: Roy Victor Banhart, who was 38 years old when he went missing on Dec. 30, 2014; and Gary Hamilton, 69, who was reported missing on Nov. 26.

Also remembered during the vigil were Thomas William Booth, who was last seen in Ketchikan on Jan. 2; and 22-year-old Justin Nathan, who went missing on Deer Mountain in mid-November.

The setting was stark — a stretch of The Plaza mall parking lot near the bus stop on Tongass Avenue had been cordoned off, and a temporary tent structure covered chairs that soon filled with elders.

The event got underway at around 7 p.m. Thursday. Following opening remarks by Richard Zellmer of The Salvation Army, an opening prayer was offered by Major Jos Govaars, also of The Salvation Army.

Ed John then came forward and read the names of Banhart, Nathan, Hamilton and Booth.

There was an additional request to remember to pray for Brandon Peterson, who went missing in Wrangell.

A letter from Irene Anderson, a cousin of Banhart, was read by a family friend.

“There are many family members hurting because he is no longer here,” Anderson’s letter read. “We may never know how Roy’s journey of life came to an end, but we’ll pray that his spirit rests in peace along with other family members in heaven. Let us remember others that are missing — Gary Hamilton, Justin Nathan and Thomas Booth — and pray they’re all found and the truths will come out about each loss.”

Scripture was read from a Bible that had been given to Booth in 2003. At the conclusion of the scripture, a note that Booth had written in that same Bible was read aloud.

“Air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, people to love, and God to praise,” Booth had written. “Life can be pretty simple if you break it down to what really is important.”

Pastors Jeff White and Bill White of the Lighthouse Church of God offered prayers for the missing men, and for comfort, strength and understanding for the families. Bill White led the group in reciting Psalm 23.

Winona Wallace thanked everyone for coming, and noted how praying about the situation had helped her.

“I hope that this prayer tonight is what everybody needs, too,” Wallace said.

She asked that any information be brought forward.

“I just want to shout out to God’s earth, to the mountains and to the oceans, and to the air, and to individuals who may be able to hear this tonight, to be convicted whether or not they know anything or saw anything or are doing anything right now, that there would be some appearance (of) evidence that would come clearly” said Wallace, soon before leading the crowd in reciting “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Hamilton’s sister, Bert Hamilton, addressed the crowd briefly. She described how she and Gary Hamilton were born 16 months apart, grew up in Ketchikan, and were very close. She, too, implored anyone with information to make it known.

“If anybody, anything you know about any of them, it would give them such peace, to put them at rest,” Bert Hamilton said. “Thank you so much for coming.”

Prior to the start of the vigil, Gena Such, who was involved with organizing the event with her husband, Dennis Such, said hearing Bert Hamilton talk about the situation was what prompted them to act.

“I listened to Bert Hamilton and I heard, just the despair in her voice, and it just grasped my heart because there’s more questions than answers for them, and each day brought more questions, and I just thought, ‘I wish I could do something,’ Gena Such said. “And my husband and I talked, ‘Well, why can’t we hold a vigil? Why can’t we pray for them, and let them know that they are not alone?’ And surprisingly, that’s what most of them feel, is alone.”

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