Sister of man missing in Olympic National Park believes strongly her brother is still alive
Rob Ollikainen/Peninsula Daily News
Jinny Longfellow of Port Angeles holds a photo of her younger brother, Bryan Lee Johnston, who has disappeared after telling family in Seattle that he was going hiking in the Lake Ozette area of Olympic National Park.
By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News
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“I feel strongly he's still alive,” said Longfellow, 86.
“He's strong-willed, has a deep faith and knows what he's doing.”
Bryan Lee Johnston apparently disappeared without a trace after he told his Seattle family that he planned to hike the Ozette Loop Trail and left his home on Aug. 22.
His family in Seattle — his wife and stepchildren, according to Longfellow — reported him missing to Olympic National Park rangers on Wednesday, Aug. 28.
At least 50 park rangers — along with search teams from Clallam, Grays Harbor and Pierce counties — searched for Johnston for three days in and around the Ozette area but found no sign of the hiker, said park spokeswoman Barb Maynes.
The ground search was called off after intensive searching turned up no clues.
Rangers continue to investigate by talking to people who may have seen him. They found receipts from Port Angeles businesses dated Aug. 22 in his truck left at the Ozette ranger station.
A photo of Johnston has been sent to hikers who had backcountry permits for the north coast and Ozette area and who might have had contact with him.
Longfellow, who lives in Port Angeles, didn't hear that her brother was missing until Sept. 2, she said.
“It was quite a shock.”
Now Longfellow says she feels sure her brother has simply taken an extended hike.
“It's a possibility that he doesn't know people are looking for him,” she said this weekend.
“If he's just hiking around, he's not carrying a TV or seeing newspapers, so he wouldn't know people are looking for him.”
He used to surprise her with visits, rarely calling ahead to say he would be in town. And Longfellow can't help but expect him now.
“I've been dreaming about that,” she said, “him knocking on the door and saying, 'C'mon Jinny, let's go take a walk.'
“It was so plain, I really did wake up and I thought it had happened,” she said.
Longfellow brought a photo of him to be published, saying she wanted to do what she could to help him be found.
“He saved my life once and I am hoping I could return the favor by telling people more about him,” she said.
Longfellow said she and Johnston grew up in Seattle with two other siblings.
They often took hikes and did other things together, she said.
“We did exploring and swimming and playing games and scuba diving and building koi ponds,” she said.
It was during a scuba diving trip in 1987 that “I got wiped out just outside of Neah Bay in a cove,” Longfellow said.
“A rip tide took me down to the bottom.
“Bryan dove right into the middle of it, risking his life to save mine. . . . Bryan didn't hesitate. He dove right in after me and that could have killed us both,” she said.
She thinks that he may have decided to check out other hiking areas before trying out the Ozette Loop Trail.
“There are trails to Sekiu and there are trails to Neah Bay. He may have gone to Neah Bay and outside that little cove where we had the accident, just to see it,” she said.
In any case, he didn't plan to disappear, she said.
“People have said that to me and there's no way,” Longfellow said. “He wouldn't do that. He was a very happy guy.”
Her brother was physically fit and had hiked “since he was a Cub Scout,” Longfellow said.
“He was a Boy Scout, an Eagle Scout and then he joined the Air Force and did more hiking,” she said.
After Johnston retired at least a dozen years ago from Seattle City Light where he worked as an engineer, he “was busier than ever,” Longfellow said.
In addition to hiking, he enjoyed photography, going on cruises with his wife and building things, his sister said.
“I was bragging about building a koi pond” that was about 5 feet by 8 feet, “and he sent me an email with a photograph of his, which covers just about the whole back yard,” she said laughing.
Through the years they had traveled together throughout the country.
“He had a wonderful sense of humor,” she said. “He and my husband, Allen Longfellow, we were always laughing.”
Longfellow's husband had owned a store in the 1960s and '70s, Angeles Music Center. She had had a store in the same building called Jinny's Knit Knook.
Johnston spent time with them both. Recently he taken to visiting only a couple of times a year, but he and Longfellow emailed often.
Longfellow described Johnston as “a quiet man, almost a loner.”
He wore glasses, but he could see well without them, she said.
Johnston wore his white hair in a ponytail because it was so thick it was easiest to just pull it back, Longfellow said.
Rangers describe him as having blue eyes and standing 5 feet 10 inches tall. When last seen, he was wearing blue jeans and carrying a black day pack.
He has other family members on the North Olympic Peninsula, Longfellow said — another sister and a niece — and he has another niece living in Spokane and a daughter who lives in California.
She hasn't spoken much with other members of the family, Longfellow said.
She just keeps hoping Johnston will show up to take a look at her koi pond.
“I pray every night that he will come,” she said, “and I'll take a walk with him, any place he wants to go.”
Anyone with clues or information regarding Johnston's whereabouts is asked to call Olympic National Park at 360-565-3120.
Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: September 08. 2013 10:40PM