Family caught between grief, hope

By Cathy Logg

Herald Writer

EVERETT — It all came down to the can of green beans in the microwave oven.

"Now it’s Thanksgiving," said Jim Davis, voicing a feeling shared by all those at Shari Anderson’s family’s holiday gathering Thursday.

Sharon C. Anderson, 50, was missing from the table, and the others sorely felt the lack of her presence. The green bean tradition reminded them of the things she brought to family celebrations before she vanished from their lives on Dec. 2.

Officially, Anderson is listed as a missing person. Everett police have no clues, and searches by family and friends that continued for eight months turned up only a smattering of reported sightings of someone who looked like her. But not Shari.

"It’s like she fell off the face of the Earth," said Mary Rehberg, Shari’s best friend for more than three decades and her "adopted" sister.

Shari’s husband, John Anderson, a Boeing employee, called Rehberg in the evening on Dec. 2 saying he was concerned because she’d left that morning to go holiday shopping and hadn’t returned. Rehberg found Shari’s new Toyota 4-Runner parked and locked at the Everett Mall.

Investigators found no evidence she had been inside the mall. Since her disappearance, her bank account hasn’t been touched and her credit cards haven’t been used.

"The detectives followed the leads that they had and, at this point, her disappearance remains a mystery," Everett Police Sgt. Boyd Bryant said. "We’re interested in knowing if anyone has seen her or knows of her whereabouts.

"It’s always difficult when someone disappears. Family, police officers, friends are left hanging. It can be very troubling when you’re not able to resolve what happened to someone."

Shari had started a tradition that green beans would always be part of the Thanksgiving meal, Rehberg said. She would bring them and stick them in the microwave to heat — and the family always forgot them, she said. On Thursday, they raised a glass to honor Shari, and stuck the can in the microwave and closed the door.

"I believe that she’s gone," Shari’s sister, Donna Schroeder of Granite Falls said. "There’s just no way Shari would be gone a year. There’s been absolutely nothing. I think somehow, somewhere, she met up with foul play. But in my heart … It would be a miracle if we found her."

Anderson’s family and friends printed flyers and spread them from Arlington to south Snohomish County, knocked on doors, showed her picture. Many flyers have since been taken down. They put in hundreds of miles and hundreds of hours, offered a $20,000 reward and set up a Web site. And still no sign of the dependable state Department of Social and Health Services caseworker.

"I don’t believe she walked away under her own power," Rehberg said. "She just wouldn’t do it. One way or the other, I want her to come home."

Family members no longer think Anderson made it to the mall, but suspect that someone left her Toyota there between 6:30 and 7 p.m. that night to be found.

"We’ve had some odd little things going on in the family," Schroeder said.

They keep finding a dime and a penny or two nickels and a penny — things that add up to 11.

"We kept thinking it was going to be Nov. 11 when something would be found," she said.

Rehberg was raking her yard recently and looked at a burgundy dahlia with white tips that grows there. The flower bloomed this time with light lavender flowers with white tips. Strange things, Rehberg said.

"I don’t know what she’s trying to tell me, but she’s trying to tell me something," she said.

Rehberg still has a flyer on a car window. She looks at it while she’s driving, and talks to Shari as though she were in the car.

The two talked on the phone at 9:30 each night. Rehberg still reaches for the phone. She keeps her cell phone with her day and night.

"Every time the phone rings, my heart just stops. I’m afraid it’s going to be that one phone call and I’m going to miss it. It’s like someone sticking a knife in you every day and ripping your heart out," she said.

"Every time they find remains, it’s like, we hold our breath because we’re so afraid that it might be her. It’s kind of a relief when it’s not her, but then I think of what that family is going to go through because I know," she said.

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania were tough on the family. They found it hard to watch people wander the streets of New York with flyers seeking their loved ones missing in the World Trade Center collapse.

"It’s really brought our family closer together," she said. "We tell them, ‘I love you.’ You never know if you’re going to see them tomorrow."

John Anderson has filed for divorce, deciding he has to move on with his life, she said.

But Rehberg has vowed to never give up until Shari comes home.

"I will not stop. Until my dying breath, I will look for her. We just need to know one way or another what happened to her and where she is. She deserves it and so does her family."

You can call Herald Writer Cathy Logg at 425-339-3437

or send e-mail to logg@heraldnet.com.

Anyone with information on Shari Anderson’s whereabouts should call the Everett Police Department tip line at 257-8450.

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