Craig Frear of Scotia has been missing for nearly 10 years, but time hasn’t made his absence any easier for his family.
“It’s like it was yesterday. You never give up hope,” said his father, Bill Frear of Schenectady.
Craig Frear — who was 17 when he walked into woods near his home on June 27, 2004, never to be seen again — will be among seven local missing persons featured in a new awareness campaign that will put their faces on drink coasters in local bars and restaurants.
The plan to distribute coasters featuring Frear, Suzanne Lyall and other missing young persons was announced Thursday at DeCrescente Distributing Co., which distributes water, soft drinks, beer, wine and hard liquor across an 11-county region.
DeCrescente has paid to print 5,000 coasters. While more than 30 restaurants and bars are initially participating, company President C.J. DeCrescente hopes to get into many more of the 2,200 establishments it supplies.
“Hopefully this is a platform we can do not just in our 11 counties but statewide,” DeCrescente said.
The “Coasters for Hope” were the brain-child of Doug and Mary Lyall of Ballston Spa, who became activists for helping the families of missing persons after their daughter Suzanne, a University at Albany student, disappeared in 1998. They founded the Center for Hope in 2001, and several years ago were able to get the faces of missing persons on playing cards distributed in prisons.
“When Doug and Mary came in, this was not a hard decision to get involved,” DeCrescente said.
The new coaster program will put those faces — and information on how to anonymously report any pertinent information — in front of anyone who uses a drink coaster at a participating restaurant or bar.
“It might be the fifth time or 25th time they’ve heard the information, but now is the time to come forward,” Doug Lyall said.
Assemblyman James N. Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III also participated in the announcement Thursday at DeCrescente Distributing’s headquarters.
“What we’ve seen time and again with missing persons cases is that there is always hope for answers and the possibility that a loved one, however improbable, could one day come home,” Tedisco said.
He noted this year’s case in Cleveland in which three women were held captive for 10 years before being found alive, and the case of Jayce Dugard, a California woman held prisoner for 18 years before escaping.
The seven missing persons featured on the drink coasters will be Frear; Lyall; Karen Wilson, a UAlbany student missing since 1985; Lutricia Steele, who disappeared from Schenectady in 2008; Peter Lorang, missing from Charlton since 2001; Tammie McCormick, who was 14 when she disappeared from Saratoga Springs in 1986; and Ashley Carroll of Troy, missing since 2010.
Tedisco recruited state police to support the effort by accepting tips and texts from anyone motivated by the coasters.
“Parents don’t ever stop searching, and neither should we,” Murphy said.
Bill Frear said the effort will help keep his son in people’s memories, which he hopes will lead to answers.
“Anything to get his face out there is a good thing,” Frear said. “Over time, people forget, and we don’t want people to forget.”
Steele’s mother, Ethel Zasa of Schenectady, said she’s reminded of her daughter, a mother of four who was 27 when she disappeared in 2008, “every time you see her picture, see her kids.”
Zasa said police continue to look for leads in the case.
Doug Lyall said the program has the potential to expand statewide and to have more names and faces used. “We have seven profiled, but there are dozens of missing persons throughout the Capital Region,” he said.