This age-progressed photo by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shows what Kathy Sue Wilcox might look like today.

Remembrance planned for Kathy Sue Wilcox

By: 
Daniel Pepper, Interim Editor

Those seeking to remember Kathy Sue Wilcox plan to mark the anniversary of her disappearance this year.

Shannon Froeber is organizing a community gathering for Thursday, July 17, at 6 p.m. in Northside Park in Otsego.

“It’ll officially be 42 years that day,” Froeber said. “Hopefully people will want to get together and discuss memories.”

Froeber is an Otsego native and was inspired to start trying to raise awareness of Wilcox’s disappearance after learning about and realizing it was not widely known—or widely-discussed—in the community.

“We just want to get together and continue to spread her name, spread our faith and just spread awareness,” Froeber said.

Karen Ortegel, Kathy Sue Wilcox’s sister, said she plans to come to Otsego for the gathering.

“The purpose and the goal is to honor my sister, whose life mattered,” Ortegel said. “To give people everywhere that knew her, know her and ever thought about her an opportunity to join in person or in spirit and let her know that her life mattered.

“It’s a day to celebrate her life. It’s a day to share stories about her... A day to join hands together in spirit and promote awareness that she’s been gone for 42 years.”

Wilcox was 15 in 1972 when she left home after an argument one afternoon and wasn’t seen by her family again.

Police at the time found a few people who said they’d seen her around town, but were unable to find her.

Ortegel said for her the habit of not speaking about her sister has been broken. She said staying silent was fed by alcoholism in her family and its effects on those nearby.

“I’ve been silent for too many years because of the huge no talk rule with alcoholism and the power of the dark side,” Ortegel said.

She credits her faith both with helping her and inspiring others to talk about her sister.

“I’m walking on in faith and walking in the great spiritual light,” she said.

She intends to keep doing so.

“It’s kind of amazing, the healing that comes from talking,” Ortegel said. “It’s powerful, it changes lives.

She also gave credit to Froeber for what she’s created.

“She continues to say yes, yes and let that light shine brightly,” Ortegel said.

David Schock, who operates the website Delayed Justice, also helped and inspired the idea of a community gathering, she said.

The gathering could also remind other people with missing loved ones of what is possible.

“For those other people who have a family member or a friend missing, I have a great hope that one of the things we’re doing might possibly inspire hope for those families,” Ortegel said.

The gathering could also serve a purpose of getting someone to come forward with something they know.

“Someone knows something, that’s the possibility I hope that it will touch someone’s heart and they’ll make an anonymous call,” Ortegel said. “But mostly it’s to celebrate her life and get together to celebrate who she was and that she touched other’s lives.”

She said she still thinks her sister’s disappearance is somewhat unknown in Otsego and hopes the efforts can continue to work on that.

Froeber said, “42 years is long enough. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Somebody knows something.

“I’m hoping anybody who knows anything. Even if it’s just something little, they may not think it’s useful, but you never know.”

For her also, though, that wasn’t the only reason, but rather an adjunct to remembering Kathy Sue Wilcox.

“That’s part of the reason we’re going to do the gathering, besides Facebook, is to still spread her face and keep the fire going,” Froeber said. “And, of course, to remember her and who she was and why she’s an important person and she shouldn’t be forgotten.”

She said everyone was welcome at the gathering, whether they had a memory they wanted to share or just wanted to show support.

Northside Park is located at 330 16th St. (Watson Road) in Otsego.

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