Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Looking for Lost Dad, She Finds Unflagging Hope

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Looking for Lost Dad, She Finds Unflagging Hope

Article excerpt


Linda Oelschlaeger wears her father's Army dogtags around her neck every day, along with his lucky penny.

It is one of the ways she strives to keep his memory alive.

Newton Whidden disappeared almost a year ago, and time has not made the uncertainty or the anguish any easier.

"The more time that goes by, the harder it gets. You'd think it would be the opposite," she said. "I miss him. Not knowing -- it's a daily nightmare."

Whidden, 85, was last seen Aug. 20.

His white van was found in a rural area outside the city of Okeechobee, more than 100 miles east of Sarasota.

Now, Oelschlaeger believes perhaps too much attention was focused on Okeechobee County. She hopes there may be clues in Sarasota County.

On the day he disappeared, Whidden visited Sam's Club, Home Depot and a Sarasota pharmacy, where his cellphone was later found.

Oelschlaeger hopes someone will remember seeing him in one of these stores, especially if he was confronted by someone or involved in an altercation.

She is hoping investigators will be able to find clues in surveillance videos from these stores.

"Someone has got to remember him," Oelschlaeger said. "I am keeping hope alive."

Search continues

Whidden, who also goes by "W.H." or "Newt," was in good health, although he had some "confusion" because of his age, his family has said.

An only child, Oelschlaeger carries the burden of finding her father mostly by herself, with support from her husband.

"I try not to burden my friends and acquaintances with my thoughts," she said. "I think I see him or his white van all the time, but it's not him."

The rural, swampy area where Whidden's vehicle was found has been searched six times by law enforcement, a private search group and Whidden's family.

Law enforcement and volunteers used ATVs, horses, helicopters and other vehicles. No trace was ever found.

Crime scene investigators processed Whidden's van, but found nothing revelatory. …

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