Cassiar... do you remember? News & Archives Section
Joe Bucar's mysterious disappearance gets more press.
Johnnie Bachusky, author of a book of British Columbia ghost towns, including Cassiar, is also a newspaper reporter. He kindly forwarded his story that appeared in the Red Deer Express and the Central Alberta Adviser newspapers on December 6, 2003. Hopefully this will trigger some memory in some Albertan reading the paper and turn up a new clue to Joe's disappearance. For more information of Joe's disappearance see the "Special Losses" page in the "In Memory" section of this website.
I was disappointed to learn some Cassiar folks were unwilling to assist in this matter. No doubt you will be too.
Saturday, December 6, 2003
BY JOHNNIE BACHUSKY
The mysterious case of a missing B.C. ghost town man who vanished in Red Deer 10 years ago continues to haunt his family and puzzle RCMP.
"It does bother me, and it will continue to upset me," said Cary Conder, the man's ex-wife.
However, despite the family's ongoing emotional trauma, the 29-year-old daughter of Joe Bucar, a former resident of Cassiar, B.C., has successfully appealed to a Victoria court to have her father legally declared dead.
Conder reported the former Cassiar asbestos miner missing in 1994, several months after he did not return home to Kelowna, B.C. following a curling bonspiel trip to Red Deer.
Meanwhile, Kelowna RCMP said the court ruling last month will not close the file on the case.
"Until we have proof he is either alive or deceased, he will remain on our system as missing," said RCMP Const. Heather Macdonald, media affairs officer with the Kelowna and southern (B.C.) district.
Macdonald noted the court declared Bucar dead without a body being discovered. She added RCMP won't close a case without physical evidence leading to a conclusive determination that he is either alive or deceased.
Bucar was 50-years-old in early February 1994 when he contacted his ex-wife to get the address and phone number of 19-year-old daughter Maria, who was then living in Winnipeg. "That was the last time I spoke with him," said Conder.
Bucar and Conder were divorced in 1983, but remained on speaking terms.
"Joe and I may not have seen eye to eye on a lot of things but we had our personal reasons for separating and I never held that against him," said Conder.
In 1992, Bucar found him-self out of work in Cassiar, B.C. - located in the remote northwest region of the province - when the asbestos mine operation closed down, forcing a complete exodus of the town site.
The closure marked the end of the town's 40-year history, leaving Cassiar a ghost town.
"Joe worked his way up in the mill. I believe up to mill operator," said Herb Daum, a former Cassiar resident, friend and mine co-worker. "I think it was 1981 when he transferred from union ranks to management staff when he took the mine shift boss job, after spending some time on the mine blasting crew to qualify for the job. For part of my tenure in the mine I worked on Joe's crew. He was my shift boss."
After Cassiar, Bucar settled in Kelowna, and bought a condominium. As he prepared to see his daughter in 1994, he also made plans with a friend to attend a curling bonspiel in Red Deer at the end of February.
Six months later, Conder received disturbing information that led her to realize Bucar never made it to Winnipeg to see Maria, and somehow disappeared either during his time in Red Deer or shortly thereafter.
At about the same time, Maria returned to her mother's home near Victoria and said Bucar never called her in Winnipeg.
Conder was also told by her ex-husband's friend, who was originally going to the Red Deer bonspiel with Bucar, that he cancelled because of poor driving conditions.
Most disturbing of all was a call from Bucar's bank to Maria that his accounts had been inactive for six months.
"It was extremely out of the ordinary. That was the first time we knew he was missing," said Conder.
She reported Bucar missing to Kelowna RCMP, who investigated the former miner's last known movements.
Conder and RCMP learned Bucar's rental car had been turned into a Red Deer agency towards the end of February, at the time the bonspiel was beginning. On March 2, the vehicle was re-rented, and on the March 5 it was turned back in again.
After that, Bucar's trail is stone cold. In fact, Conder also learned Bucar sold his Kelowna condo and placed his belongings at a storage company. By the time she found out, the storage company sold most of his possessions to pay for storage fee arrears.
"There wasn't very much left; some clothes, personal documents and pictures. That was it," said Conder.
She said neither the bank nor the RCMP will release further specifics - such as more detailed financial information - because she is no longer legally related to Bucar.
A great deal of information was not released to Maria because she never had power-of-attorney privileges for her father.
"I was told by the RCMP that because Joe was an adult male, and if he chose to disappear, that was his business," said Conder. The mother and daughter, who could not afford a private investigator, did learn Bucar had no financial problems and was looking forward to moving to the B.C. interior to find work at another mine. Bucar had not worked since Cassiar closed down.
Friends who were close to Bucar added he did not appear depressed or in trouble in any way.
While some people honestly wanted to help Conder and Maria, the ex-wife said some were decidedly cold.
"When I did talk to them I always got the feeling they just thought of me as being a money grubber; that we were just trying to locate Joe to get some money out of him," said Conder. "Money had nothing to do with it. In fact, I called him when Maria was coming up to her 18th birthday and told him there was no need for him to pay me child support anymore."
Meanwhile, Bucar's family members in Slovenia told Cary he never contacted them. Police agencies in Europe also found no trace of Bucar, said Conder.
Bucar's two sisters and brother in Slovenia never told their mother her son was missing in Canada. She died two years after her son's disappearance.
Bucar's father, who knew his son was missing, died last year.
The father left an estate but before it could be dispersed among siblings, Bucar's status in Canada had to be settled.
Conder and Maria agreed to go to a Victoria court last month to have him declared legally dead, a move to allow the Slovenia family to move forward.
It's been almost a decade, and Conder and Maria are no further ahead in finding out what happened to the father and ex-husband.
However, Conder has a theory. She believes Bucar met another single man - possibly from the same ghost town - at the bonspiel and agreed to share traveling expenses with him to get home instead of renting a car.
"We may be looking for two people and not even know it," said Conder.
She said it is possible the car had an accident in the B.C. mountains and their bodies have never been found.
"The case is still open," said Conder. "We still contact police from time to time."
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