BRIDGEPORT While the circumstances surrounding the disappearance and death of a local man are somewhat mysterious, one thing is clear: Gordon Benjamin Beadell was loved.
“There’s been lots of phone calls” from friends and family, said Donna Beadell of Bridgeport, who is married to Gordon Beadell’s cousin, LeRoy Beadell.
Gordon Beadell, 81, was found dead in his car Nov. 19 under a bridge near the intersection of state Highway 173 and Crane Orchard Road, seven days after he had been reported missing.
LeRoy Beadell was the one who found the red 1998 Buick Skylark that friends, family and law enforcement agencies across the state had been searching for all week.
“My husband – his cousin, who found him – just had a feeling about water,” Donna Beadell said.
They had been on their way home from a gathering at the Brewster Senior Center at about 1:15 p.m. when LeRoy Beadell said he wanted to pull over and look around the bridge.
LeRoy spotted a yellow light that had fallen off the car and was on a nearby driveway.
“He held his arm up and said, ‘Gordon’s down here,’ and I just about fainted,” Donna Beadell said. “You couldn’t see the car from anywhere up on the road at all. We walked out onto the bridge and probably had to go 30 feet out on the bridge and had to hang off the railing to see it.
“The sheriff thought he might have been going too fast and just airplaned right over the bushes… That corner at the end of the bridge really needs a guardrail. I have seen so many people have accidents there.”
The car had overturned and was in the Columbia River, according to Douglas County Sheriff Harvey Gjesdal.
Gjesdal said it was unclear if Beadell intentionally drove into the river or lost control of his vehicle.
Donna Beadell said Gordon Beadell had experienced some confusion in the days leading to his disappearance, and he had asked someone to put two heavy toolboxes in his trunk.
“His daughter said, ‘Absolutely, he wouldn’t commit suicide, he would never do that,’” she said. “We may never know what happened.”
Gjesdal said there was “no apparent trauma” to Beadell’s body, and there wouldn’t be an autopsy.
Gordon Beadell suffered from dementia and was without his insulin medication when he left at 5 p.m. Nov. 11 for a planned trip to the Chelan Walmart.
“He wasn’t supposed to be driving because his license had been suspended and he wasn’t a very good driver,” Donna Beadell said.
He left his girlfriend’s apartment after a game of marbles to go to his favorite store, but never came home, she said. He was reported missing the morning of Nov. 12.
Gordon Beadell and Sharon Wilfong had been together for about 12 years. They both lived at Joseph Cove Apartments, 700 Fairview Ave., but didn’t share an apartment.
“She said, ‘Be careful,’ and he said, ‘Don’t worry about me,’” Donna Beadell said. “They were pretty close.”
He also left behind three children: a son, Benny Beadell of Bremerton, and two daughters, Stella Lumbreras of California and Christina Hobart of Moses Lake.
On Monday, Donna Beadell said no memorial services have been planned yet for Gordon, pending the arrival of Lumbreras.
He requested that his ashes be scatted near Harts Pass, where his father’s ashes were scattered, Donna Beadell said.
A native of Pateros who was descended from some of the town’s earliest settlers, Gordon Beadell liked to play chickenfoot, could speak several Native American languages and liked to participate in the annual Winthrop ‘49ers Days. One year, before a staged shootout in the street, he accidentally fired a gun inside a store there.
“People had a good laugh over that,” Donna Beadell said.
Gordon Beadell wore a trademark leather jacket passed down from his grandfather, and Donna Beadell said for years he wore long hair and a beard. She said some friends who had seen his driver’s license photo circulating in the media after he went missing didn’t recognize the clean-shaven man.
“He was kind of a character,” she said.
“He was a joy to be around, and I loved him,” said Connie LaBree of Pateros, who had been friends with Beadell for more than 20 years. “He could read me like a book. I could not hide anything from him.”
LaBree said Beadell had a stubborn side, but he was good-natured about it.
“He had a giggle that was mischievous and always made me smile. I will always miss him. He was a great person,” she said.
Beadell had been visited by caregivers at his home, but the latest one “wasn’t dependable,” Donna Beadell said.
“He was getting a little cantankerous and he’d gone through about three caretakers,” she said.
Recently, he had overdosed on insulin and called Donna, confused, only an hour after she had last talked to him, she said.
Donna Beadell thanked all the people who searched for Gordon Beadell, including the Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies.
“They really searched and they really did what they needed to do as best they could,” she said.