BENTON — The family and friends of a missing 86-year-old man remained hopeful that he would be found safe after his disappearance nearly 24 hours earlier, according to searchers on Thursday.
“We hope he is sitting down somewhere, waiting for us to find him, and that he is safe,” said Lt. Kevin Adam of the Maine Warden Service. “His family is concerned, but they are hopeful.”
Arthur Wakeman, of 344 East Benton Road, left his home sometime between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to Adam.
The missing man’s son, Bruce Wakeman, reported him missing after a neighbor went to check on him and couldn’t find the man, Adam said. Wardens searched overnight and by noon Thursday had covered an area of about a quarter-mile radius around the house.
Wakeman does not own a car, and his only method of transportation is by foot, Adam said. The warden service said Wakeman was wearing blue jeans and a plaid shirt and might have a walking stick with him.
By early Thursday evening, Wakeman had not been found. Adam said searchers would discontinue the search Thursday night and resume it Friday. He said they planned to expand the search beyond Wakeman’s home, which is in a wooded area surrounded by a maze of all-terrain vehicle trails and at the end of a long gravel driveway.
About 40 searchers on foot, with dogs and using all-terrain vehicles, a plane and a helicopter were involved in the hunt, which included people from the Maine State Police, Unity College Search and Rescue, Orono-based Dirigo Search and Rescue, and the Maine Association for Search and Rescue.
Maine State Police also were conducting house-to-house interviews and searches. Authorities established a command post at the Albion Fire Department, which is about five miles from Wakeman’s house.
Neighbors and friends who had gathered around the house said it was unusual for Wakeman to travel far from his home and that they were concerned about his welfare.
“I would be worried about him walking down the driveway, let alone through the woods. He isn’t stable on his feet at all,” said Al Dixon, 69, a family friend whose brother-in-law lives across the street from Wakeman.
Wakeman’s wife died in July, but his behavior since then hadn’t changed much, said Dixon’s wife, Cora Dixon, 67.
“He appeared to be doing better. He didn’t have the stress of worrying about her health. He would go outside and work on his tractor,” she said.
Cora Dixon said Wakeman lives alone but that her brother Al Giroux checks on him frequently. On Wednesday he had visited Wakeman around 2 p.m., when Wakeman told him he was going to take a nap, she said.
“He had been alone, but the neighbors are extremely aware and cautious. They always check on him,” she said.
Giroux declined to comment, saying he was too upset about Wakeman’s disappearance. Members of Wakeman’s family who were at his home Thursday also declined to comment.
Adam said family members never had reported Wakeman missing in the past and that they said it was unusual for him to leave without telling anyone.
He said Wakeman had minor medical problems including some signs of dementia and forgetfulness, but that they weren’t considered serious. There was no indication of foul play, he said.
Adam was concerned that Wakeman could be wet from overnight rain and could be at risk of hypothermia. Even though the temperatures were warm — it reached into the 80s Wednesday night and was in the low 70s Thursday morning — he said Wakeman still could be at risk because of his age. The low temperature overnight Thursday was in the low 60s.
The warden service asked that anyone who has seen Wakeman during the last 24 hours or has information that may lead to his whereabouts call the Augusta State Police Communication Center at 624-7076.
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368