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Family of logger missing since 1970 in Gold River lake pens heartfelt message

The search for Silvio Strussi last year led his grandchildren to know more about him and his life on Vancouver Island
51 years after Silvio Strussi went missing in Muchalat Lake, near Gold River, his family talks about the search for his body that they undertook last year. Photo by Binny Paul/Campbell River Mirror

Today marks 51 years since logger Silvio Strussi went missing in Muchalat lake near Gold River in 1970 and his family penned a heartwarming reflection about their time spent searching for his body.

Last year his grandchildren Kimberly Chastellaine and Sean Smith began searching for their grandfather’s final resting place and visited Gold River to get some answers.

READ MORE: Closing a 50-year-old wound on a remote Vancouver Island lake

The RCMP’s dive team assisted them in the search. However, Strussi’s body was not located because a significant section of the road had collapsed into the lake that day 51 years ago and buried the logger and his bulldozer.

READ MORE:RCMP dive team to search for man missing since 1970 in remote Vancouver Island lake

READ MORE: No luck locating missing body from 1970 in Vancouver Island lake: RCMP dive team

But the search unravelled facts about their family lineage and helped Chastellaine and Smith learn about Strussi’s history, his arrival in Canada from Italy (where he was born in 1928) and his life on Vancouver Island as a firefighter and miner in Cumberland.

After the mine closed in Cumberland, Strussi went to work in Gold River with Tahsis Logging Company five months before he died. Through the many stories they heard from community members on the Island, Stussi’s grandchildren got to know more about their grandfather.

“He is a man that we had to learn about third hand…We learned that he loved to hunt and fish, he was hard working and well liked by many. He was a man who prided himself in community service,” Chastellaine told the Mirror. Her gratitude towards the people of Gold River is endless, she said.

For their family, the search was also an intersection between the past and the future leaving them to wonder how life might have been had their grandfather not died the way he did.

“He was born in Italy, yet we don’t have any connection to the customs or traditions of that country. When he died, part of our heritage died with him. What stories would we have been told, what connection to him would we have had, how would our lives have be different with him in it?”

The search also connected Chastellaine and Smith with other families who shared their plight – a family whose father went missing after his float plane crashed in the lake.

“We connected out of a longing to know where our loved one is,” said Chastellaine and added, “We do not feel that our grandfather’s story is anymore important than any other missing person in Muchalat Lake or for that matter, the world.”

“He is just the missing person that happens to be related to us and we have decided that 50 years is long enough to not know…Our aim is to simply be the last generation of Strussi’s descendants to not know where he is and to not be able to visit and pay our respects to a man we never knew, a man who was our grandfather.”

Chastellaine considers her family “very lucky ” in the fact that at least they have a jumping off point.

“There are many families that are missing loved ones that don’t even know where to begin looking. Our hearts break for those families and we cannot even begin to imagine their struggles and we pray for them.”

Interred deep in the heart of Muchalat lake by time and fate, Strussi’s death left three generations of a family without closure. But the family will continue to search and locate his final resting place, said Chastellaine and Smith.

“In our search, the most often asked question is: Why now? Our answer is always the same; because he is still lost somewhere in that lake with no marker to commemorate his life. Now is the time because now is long enough to be just lost forever in a lake.”