Five days later, man is still missing

Five days are gone and 87-year-old Hugh Clark remains missing.

The phone rings off the hook at the home he built and he and his wife, Thelma, share on Trollingwood Road in Haw River, but it’s never Clark on the other end.

Family and friends check in daily, seeking information and some shred of hope that Clark is OK. But the news is always the same.

Clark was last seen heading to get his oil changed at about 2 p.m. Friday. He planned to make a stop at Maxway on North Church Street. No one knows whether he did those things because he never returned home.

The husband, father, World War II veteran, mechanic and jack-of-all-trades just disappeared along with the 1997 Lincoln Town Car he was driving, leaving few clues behind to help his family and investigators with the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department find him.

As each day passes, the list of worries increases. His blood pressure medicine sits on the counter. He hasn’t had a pill since Friday. He only had some cash in his pocket. He doesn’t have a cell phone, credit or debit card.

Clark suffers from mild dementia. He doesn’t hear well and has arthritis in both his legs so he can only walk short distances. He knows his phone number but if he’s confused, his family isn’t sure he’d know to call.

There are many unanswered questions and so much waiting.

“I don’t know if he’s drinking. I don’t know if he’s eating,” said Cindy Grissom, Clark’s daughter. “I don’t know if he’s still with us, but we have to find him.”

Clark’s family reported him missing Friday evening. On Saturday, a Silver Alert was issued. Investigators talked about the possibility of getting a plane or helicopter to search for him but that hasn’t been done yet. Family and friends rushed in to help.

More than 30 volunteers showed up Saturday. They offered support, put up fliers and searched. Truck drivers took fliers to places in Virginia where Clark has family and traded information over citizens band radios. They worked the phones and sent text messages to get the word out.

“I can’t thank the people enough that have helped us,” Grissom said. “It has meant so much to us and has been such a blessing. We are so grateful.”

By Tuesday, four days in, Grissom started to lose hope. The sheriff’s department released that the car seen on a surveillance video of the Maxway parking lot in the timeframe Clark was supposed to be at the store wasn’t Clark’s 1997 Lincoln Town Car.

Grissom still has her doubts about that. Several people called to say they spotted a man driving a gold-colored Lincoln Town Car attempting to turn east onto South Mebane Street off of Huffman Mill Road at about 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Was that Clark? Did he ever make it to Maxway? Where did he go? Why can’t anyone find his car?

The wondering is endless.

“Sometimes it’s cruel and excruciating,” Grissom said. “… We’ve done everything we know to do.”

On Tuesday evening, Grissom was put in contact with Mike Craig, co-founder of Public Safety Dogs, Inc., a nonprofit organization in Alamance County that trains a variety of scent dogs for law enforcement agencies. Volunteers also provide free search and rescue services to law enforcement agencies in North Carolina and parts of Virginia.

Craig offered the service to Clark’s family. He and 14 volunteers, including a black Labrador retriever named Magnum, searched ravines, ponds, back roads, alleys, and rest areas throughout the county Wednesday.

“(Mike Craig) said we will not give up until we find him,” Grissom said. “That was a miracle. It was like angels fell out of the sky.”

Craig is concerned that Clark ran the car off the road.

“If we don’t find him, we want it to be because he’s not here,” Craig said. “For someone to have an accident and then perish because someone doesn’t find him, that’s unacceptable.”

Craig used a scent transfer machine, which he described as a mini vacuum, to collect Clark’s scent should the volunteers find the car. He said Magnum can then work off the scent collected in the machine in order to keep all the evidence intact in the car.

“We’re driving any road that he might have been on,” Craig said. “We are turning over every stone. That’s the only way to do it.”

Finding her father, one way or another, is all Grissom and the rest of her family can focus on.

“Not knowing is hell,” she said. “But I have a lot more hope that at least he’ll be found.”

Clark is a white man. He is 6 feet tall and weighs about 185 pounds. His hair is gray and his eyes are blue. He was last seen wearing a gray flannel shirt, navy pants and brown shoes. He was driving a 1997 Lincoln Town Car. The car is a gold/light tan/sand color. It has a N.C. license tag No. VNP-1497. There is also a Burlington Lincoln Mercury tag on the front of the vehicle.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact the sheriff’s department at 570-6300 or Crime Stoppers at 229-7100.

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