Wife of missing man plans memorial
- Darryl Swan
- South County Spotlight - News
The wife of a 77-year-old man who disappeared in December, leaving behind only vague clues and an overstock of questions, is planning a memorial for her husband later this month.
Beula Blades, 68, said she has given up hope that one day her husband, Sterling, would return to her after his disappearance on Dec. 17.
The hardest moment came last month, on March 9, when the couple would have celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary. Since then, Beula said it has grown too difficult to keep bogging herself down in the unknown.
'I've kind of quit. I kept yo-yoing all the time, kept thinking I'd hear something, or that somebody would find him,' Beula said. 'I won't let myself think that anymore, because I just let myself down.'
The memorial is scheduled for April 19 at Holbrook Bible Church on Morgan Road, starting at noon. Beula said the service is open to 'friends, neighbors and nice people.'
While the memorial is symbolic of Beula's and her family's quest to move beyond Sterling's disappearance, it is difficult to fully set aside the largest question: Where is Sterling Blades?
Sterling's last known location was the Warren home of his friend, Duane Dalebout, who also goes by the name 'Dutch.' Dalebout said Sterling had visited him at his home located off of Church Road to talk about fishing and scrap metal prices - both were bona fide 'scrap monkeys,' as Dalebout put it - and other common interests.
Sterling at that time talked about venturing to Vernonia to help haul away flood wreckage, such as junked appliances and discarded metal, in the wake of the devastating floods that hit Vernonia and its surrounding areas last winter.
Dalebout said that Sterling complained of a headache before leaving. Grumbling about a headache was an oddity for Sterling, who rarely complained about anything, Beula said.
Dalebout said that Sterling exited his house by walking backward down a set of steps, talking as he did so, and then he got into his navy blue Dodge pickup truck. He watched Sterling steer to the end of the driveway, and then Dalebout said he turned away as Sterling readied to make the turn onto Church Road.
That is the last anyone has seen of Sterling or the truck, which bore the license plate number TBF-558.
Sterling had a recent history of memory lapses after suffering a stroke. In 2002, he had open heart surgery, and was using prescription antidepressant medication at the time he went missing.
Police search teams from Columbia and Multnomah counties, including aerial searches, turned up nothing in the form of legitimate sightings. Private efforts, mostly orchestrated by the family, also had no success.
The most common speculation is that Sterling had driven off the road while en route to Vernonia.
Beula said she is still hopeful someone will find Sterling, perhaps next fall at hunting season.
Beula and Sterling have three children together: Jim, 50; Connie, 48; and Jerry, 44.