Four-year-old Tia Sheaves wants to brush her little cheeks up against grandpa's prickly beard and give the burly man a hug again.
Instead, over the past few weeks, the Maple Ridge youngster has been helping her mother Stacey Rikkinen and other members of their family plaster missing posters around Maple Ridge and Langley, in hopes of finding her grandfather.
But those hopes were dashed Monday, when Stacey received a phone call saying her father's truck had been found torched in Aldergrove, with a dead body inside.
While police are waiting for a coroner to confirm the identity of the body, family are fearing the worst. They fear the body might belong to Dan Rikkinen, who went missing a week after his 59th birthday.
All the family can do now, Stacey's husband Justin told the Langley Advance late Monday afternoon, is wait and hope it's not him. Langley RCMP were unable to confirm the reports prior to press deadline.
The former long-time Maple Ridge resident, who has been living in Langley for at least a decade, was just in the midst of moving to Vancouver Island to retire with his wife Dianne Schmidt, Stacey explained.
Her father last saw and spoke with family on Nov. 22 - making promises for the next day and making plans with different members of the family for the weekend.
He was then seen the next morning by hotel staff (where they'd been staying since selling their houseboat Nov. 1) and by a bank clerk.
What happened after that is unclear. It's believed he would have driven from the Willowbrook area bank to a nearby Starbucks, then east to Langley Memorial Hospital to visit his wife - who recently fractured her pelvis in a fall outside their Langley boathouse and
Instead, Rikkinen vanished. "We've had nothing, and I mean nothing, since then," Stacey told the Advance Friday. Since he went missing, there was no activity on Rikkinen's bank accounts, credit cards, phone, email or other systems police typically monitor for a missing person.
And there had been no sign of his missing maroon-coloured GMC Cheyenne pickup with canopy (licence plate EH2194), until family received notification about the weekend fire.
"For him to have made plans for Friday, and to have made plans for Saturday, then to get in his truck and drive off. it doesn't make sense," said Stacey, his only daughter.
Admittedly, she doesn't see her father more than two or three times a year, but Stacey had talked to him on the phone, emailed him, and texted with him days before his disappearance. "Whatever has happened, whatever is going on, we just want to know you're safe," she said Friday, still hopeful that message would reach her father.
"He is a father. He is a grandfather [to Tia and her older sister Tru], and there are a lot of people who love him very much," said Stacey, who was born and raised and still resides in Maple Ridge.
While Rikkinen was born in Israel, he immigrated to Canada - and specifically Maple Ridge - when he was a child. He still has family in the area, but has spent very little time in the community in recent years.
While she was putting up some missing posters close to home in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, she had not expected her father to end up over on this side of the river - and she's now fearful she was right.
He and his wife Dianne Schmidt were planning to retire to Vancouver Island this month - as soon as Dianne was released from hospital - to be close to two of her three boys.
Rikkinen was apparently already working part-time there, driving truck, and in the days leading up to his disappearance he had been moving a lot of their belongings over to the Island.
Describing him, she said her father is short and stocky, standing about 5' 6" with sandy brown/grey hair and blue eyes.
He has no medical issues. He is an avid smoker. He is a recovering alcoholic with more than 20 years of sobriety, she said, reaffirming police reports that alcohol and drugs are not believed to be factors in his disappearance.
While comfortable being alone - since much of his life was spent as a long-haul truck driver - he is very friendly, his daughter elaborated.
She can never remember seeing him angry, but described him as a bit of a shy man in crowds.
If confronted, she's confident he could hold his own, and doesn't believe he was mugged outside the bank - which was the last place he was seen after withdrawing a bit of cash.
"The hardest part for us is that we don't have any answers. we just don't know where he is, or what happened to him," Stacey said before Monday's call, noting that, in addition to distributing missing flyers, some of his family had been visiting all the places he's known to frequent, while others were blanketing the internet - primarily Facebook - with information and requests for help to the public.
@ Copyright 2013