By CHRISTINE L. PRATT
WOOSTER — For every month Susan Ryan has been missing, a butterfly was released, each carrying to the Great Spirit a whisper of a wish for her return.
The Native American ceremony, as well as a balloon launch, was part of a Sunday gathering at Christmas Run Park. Its purpose was to raise awareness, share memories and remind the community Ryan, last seen a year ago to the day in Wooster, has yet to be found.
Ryan was reported missing Saturday, June 5, 2010, from her Wooster residence after she quit her job at KBS Cleaning on June 3. She is 5 feet, 3 inches, 105 pounds and has brown hair and blue eyes.
According to the Wooster Police Department, she was believed to have left on foot with nothing more than a handgun, a map of Wooster and her driver’s license. The rest of her personal belongings were left behind at her Saybolt Avenue residence.
“A lot of people think she’s been found because they haven’t seen or heard anything for so long,” said Ryan’s daughter, Helen Ryan-Zimmel, who said there have been no real leads since last summer.
“We want to just keep her name out there. She is still missing. We’re still looking for her. We’re not going to stop,” said Zimmel, who has never stopped working on the case — networking, making calls, getting her mother’s information online.
After a year, Zimmel said, she just doesn’t know what happened to her mother. Although a possibility, she said it is not in her mother’s character to have committed suicide.
“I think she wanted to take a break (from life), and something might have happened — someone picked her up or she fell down and got hurt. It’s just not like her to go off and not have any contact for this long,” she said.
“She’s a shy person, very reserved, but she’s also one of the most open people once you get to know her. She likes to hear your stories and get to know you and then give you her advice,” Zimmel said of her mother, who moved from Elyria to Wooster only a couple months earlier. “She was a T-shirt and jeans, pull your hair back in a ponytail type of person.”
Also looking for answers is Barb Tablett, who was Ryan’s roommate up until her disappearance. “I want to bring her back,” said Tablett, who last talked to Ryan the night before she disappeared.
In the last year, she’s come to find out Ryan wasn’t quite who she thought and “everything I thought I knew wasn’t true. She wasn’t telling us what was going on. At this point, I’m really angry.”
Nevertheless, she wants to see Ryan return. “I don’t like what this is putting (Zimmel) through. It’s just odd there’s been nothing.”
The return of Ryan, Tablett said, will give her friends and family some much needed peace in their lives. “It’s sad. I don’t know how anybody could walk away from their children.”
Like Zimmel, Tablett said, “I don’t think she killed herself. It was not like her, but then again, I didn’t think it was like her to take off.
“It’s just weird no one saw anything. She’s out there. Where? I don’t know. Sometimes I just expect her to just walk up,” Tablett said.
Dennis Kirkbride and Peg Kendzel, both from Lorain County, have each known Ryan for more than 20 years. Together they made a habit of getting together, eating pizza and watching bad movies.
They describe Ryan as someone who was always willing to lend a hand. She even spent much of her own time assisting Kendzel’s husband after he became ill and unable to get around.
“I wish I (knew what happened),” Kirkbride said. “I can’t figure it out. I can’t see her staying gone this long. We keep hoping. That’s the best we can do.”
There to support Ryan’s friends and family were the mother and aunt of Brian Sullivan, who at 19 disappeared from Monroe County, N.Y., on July 8, 2007. He is still missing, and his mother, Barb, holds out hope.
She traveled to Wooster on Sunday to “come support Helen and help her get through this day. The firsts — Christmas, birthday, anniversary — are always the hardest.
Zimmel said she appreciates the hard work Wooster Police have dedicated to the case. She said detective William Belcher, assigned to the case, has been particularly helpful.
“He has gone beyond what I ever expected. He has taken this very seriously and keeps in touch, even when there are no leads. I’m very thankful we have him working on this. He takes this as if it were his own family,” she said.
Anyone with information about Ryan should call the Wooster Police Department at 330-287-5700.
Reporter Christine L. Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.