This last Friday, Jan. 4 was a particularly difficult day for Jill Williams, of Buckley.
It was the day her son Kristopher David Clarke turned/would have turned 30.
It's hard to settle on a verb tense, because Williams doesn't know if her son, who goes by his nickname KC, is alive or dead.
Clarke was last seen on Feb. 22, 2012 in Mandaree, ND, at Blackstone Trucking wearing a grey jogging suit, according to a Facebook page Williams set up to find him. He had traveled there the previous October, she said, to work as a truck driver with the intent to eventually return home to Buckley. Prior to that, Clarke had been living in Texas since 2008.
It took more than two months before Clarke was officially listed as missing. In June, his truck was located 80 miles away in Williston, ND. It was unlocked and his belongings were inside.
Police progress has been slow, and though it's frustrating, Williams doesn't fault them completely. The new oil boom has revitalized the state but put a huge strain on local law enforcement, Williams said.
Unable to afford her own private investigator, Williams and a small group of about four people, have in the last year taken it upon themselves to continue the investigation over what happened to Clarke.
They have traveled to several states including Texas, North Dakota and Oregon to interview people and research court documents. They've also taken the opportunity to retrieve his belongings from Texas and bring them home.
"I don't know what to do or feel or think," Williams said.
She wants to give some of Clarke's clothes to his siblings as a way to feel close to him, but "you don't know what to do if KC comes back and is going to want these things," she said. "You don't know if you should be grieving or not."
A Local Boy
Though his last Washington state residence was Buckley, Clarke was born at Enumclaw Regional Hospital and graduated from Enumclaw High School in 2001, Williams said.
He used to race street bikes professionally and was a regular at Pacific Raceways in Kent.
Clarke was a "rather special kind of guy," Williams said. "Kind, funny and always had a smile for everyone. His smile touched people."
Just as importantly, "it wasn't like him to disappear and not tell anyone."
Hope Remains Strong
Williams said her investigation has led her down some unseemly paths. The effect sways her to believe the prospect of finding Clarke alive "doesn't look good," she said.
But a mother's hope remains eternal. "We want him to be alive. We hope he comes home. We have that hope he's out there somewhere... You never stop looking until you have an answer."
Even if that answer is that Clarke is no longer alive, Williams said she would welcome that closure as well.
The disappearance has understandably taken its toll on her family, she said. Aside from the emotional challenges, the family has also gone through its savings putting everything into its search for Clarke, and as of last fall, also battling a defamation suit also related to Clarke's disappearance.
The pain, however, is tempered by the positives that Williams said she's been blessed with since her son went missing. "You realize the things that are important," she said. Her network of family and friends have grown very close, and she has also been able to reach out to comfort others who are hurting. "They tell me that they're inspired by my strength. They tell me they never used to pray and now they do."
Blessings aside, Williams is very aware of the Feb. 22 date next month that marks one year since her son disappeared. Balancing her roles as investigator and mom, Williams is still partial to the latter. Even now, "I still call his cell phone to leave a message," she said. "I think maybe he'll hear it and know we want him to come home."
Show Your Support
An auction/spaghetti feed fundraiser in support of Williams' family as they continue their investigation and battle court costs takes place this Saturday, Jan. 12 at the Eagle's Club in Buckley (29021 State Route 410 E), beginning at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $24 per person at the door.
A candle light vigil follows at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/findkcgimpdaddy.