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Mom who was missing 52 years says she was never hiding

Lucy Johnson (nee Carvell), shown here in a picture from the 1960s, disappeared from Surrey 52 years ago, but was located living in the Yukon last week. - Surrey RCMP
Lucy Johnson (nee Carvell), shown here in a picture from the 1960s, disappeared from Surrey 52 years ago, but was located living in the Yukon last week.
— image credit: Surrey RCMP

Saturday was a momentous day for Surrey’s Linda Evans. For the first time in 52 years, she got to speak to her mom.

As first reported in The Leader last week, Evans found her birth mother, Lucy, living in the Yukon after she all-but-vanished more than five decades ago. Evans was a child of about seven when she last saw her.

The phone conversation on Saturday, said Evans, was a bit awkward at first – she didn’t know quite what to say, while her mom, who is now 77, seemed to still be in a bit of shock.

“Then she said, ‘you have about 200 relatives up here. I can hardly wait til you come up here,’” said Evans.

The short talk provided long-awaited comfort for Evans, 58, who believed for years that her mother was dead.

“I felt so much better,” she said. “I thought she didn’t want to see me or anything. It turned out great.”

The conversation was short, but sweet.

“I said, ‘I love you,’ and she said, ‘I love you.’”

Evans’ mom was last seen in Surrey in 1961. She was known as Lucy Ann Johnson. Her maiden name was Carvell.

Surrey RCMP highlighted her case in its Missing of the Month series in late June as part of a renewed public appeal to generate tips on her whereabouts. It was one of the detachment’s oldest missing persons cases. After a story ran in The Leader and other media in early July, Evans began her own search.

Knowing Lucy was born in Alaska and had lived there and in the Yukon until 1953, Evans placed advertisements in some northern newspapers in the hopes someone knew her. It listed her grandparents’ names, as well as Lucy’s date and place of birth.

Rhonda (who didn’t want her last name used) was at work last week in Whitehorse when her brother called her. He had seen Evans’ small ad in the Yukon News and wanted her to check it out.

Rhonda did. The “missing” woman, she quickly realized, was her own mother. She called her mom right away to tell her there was a missing persons report that had an old photo of her on it.

“She said, ‘I’m not missing, I’m here,’” Rhonda told The Leader this week from the Yukon.

“She said, ‘I was never hiding.’”

Rhonda said her family (Lucy remarried and had three more children) lived in B.C. until about 1980, before moving to the Yukon.

Due to the intense media attention her story has received, Lucy doesn’t want to speak publicly at this point, Rhonda said, but she said her mom didn’t seem overly concerned when her past life was revealed.

“Maybe she just expected it to come out one day, I’m not sure,” said Rhonda, who said her mom couldn’t talk to Evans long on Saturday because she was going to cry.

When asked if she knew why her mother had left Surrey so abruptly, without Evans and her brother Daniel (who passed away in his teens), Rhonda said it sounded like a domestic dispute situation – though she hasn’t gotten a lot of details from her mom.

“I’m assuming they were fighting and drinking … and he said, ‘you’re not taking the kids,’ so she left.”

While media worldwide have been chasing the story, Rhonda said finding out about Evans has actually not been entirely out-of-the-ordinary for her often-complicated family, and they readily welcome her to their clan.

“We have a weird family, so it’s just fine,” she laughed. “It’ll be just fine.”

She said she’s excited to get to know Evans better and that her aunts are also eager to meet her.

According to Surrey RCMP, Lucy was first reported missing by her husband Marvin in 1965, but police learned later that she actually hadn’t been seen since 1961. Believing Lucy might have might have been a crime victim, police began investigating, even excavating the family’s yard in North Surrey after a neighbour said they saw her husband dig a septic field. Police said charges were considered against Marvin, but due to insufficient evidence, were never laid.

Evans said her dad remarried when she was a child, and raised her. In light of Lucy being found, the Surrey RCMP emphasized last week that Marvin, who passed away in the late 1990s, had been cleared of any suspicion in Lucy’s disappearance.

Evans is now saving her money in hopes of eventually travelling north to see her mom and meet her new-found sister and two brothers, as well as multiple other relatives she didn’t know existed until last week.

“I’m happy I’m welcome up there,” she said.

Rhonda said she’s more than happy to share her mom with Evans.

“To me, I looked at it and thought I’ve had her all my life and she hasn’t.”

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