Four-year-old Tia Sheaves wants to brush her little checks up against grandpa’s prickly beard and give the burly man a hug again.
Instead, the Maple Ridge youngster is 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.
A week after Dan Rikkinen’s 59th birthday, he went missing.
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.
Rikkinen 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 expected 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 required hospitalization.
Instead, Rikkinen vanished.
“We’ve had nothing, and I mean nothing, since then,” said Stacey.
Since then, there’s been no activity on his bank accounts or credit cards, phone, email or any other systems the police typically use to monitor a missing person’s whereabouts.
There’s no record the former long-haul truck driver (who travelled frequently between B.C. and California) drove south through the border crossings.
And there’s been no other sign of him or his missing maroon-coloured GMC Cheyenne pickup with canopy (licence plate EH2194).
“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 Rikkinen’s only daughter Stacey.
She’s left confused and fearful by what she describes as a very surreal experience of losing her dad.
Admittedly, she doesn’t see her father but two or three times a year, but Stacey had talked to him on the phone, emailed him, and texted with him within days of his disappearance.
“Whatever has happened, whatever is going on, we just want to know you’re safe,” she said, hopeful that message will reach her father.
Two weeks since his disappearance, Stacey said she and other family members are desperate for answers.
“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 in Maple Ridge.
While she’s putting up some missing posters close to home in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, she doesn’t expect her father ended up over on this side of the river.
While he 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.
Nevertheless, his daughter is asking locals to keep their eyes open.
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 ft 6 in 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, hoping beyond hope that he turns up safe somewhere, soon.
In addition to distributing flyers, some of the family has been visiting all the places he’s known to frequent. Meanwhile, others are blanketing the Internet – primarily Facebook – with information and requests for help to the public.
Anyone with information about Dan Rikkinen’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Langley RCMP Const. Joshua Becker at 604-532-3200.
“I don’t know what else people can do but keep their eyes open and don’t give up,” Stacey said.