Mary Gay keeps this coin collection can beside her bed showing Bryan, her son who went missing in Alaska 20 years ago. Back then, to help raise money for family searches, one of Bryan’s heartbroken friends made up cans with this photo on it and placed them at the tills of local businesses. Turn to Page 5 for a letter from Kevin Gay. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Mary Gay keeps this coin collection can beside her bed showing Bryan, her son who went missing in Alaska 20 years ago. Back then, to help raise money for family searches, one of Bryan’s heartbroken friends made up cans with this photo on it and placed them at the tills of local businesses. Turn to Page 5 for a letter from Kevin Gay. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Never forgotten: Kootenay man still missing after 20 years

Bryan Gay disappeared in Skagway Alaska Sept. 26, 2000

After 20 years there’s been no trace found of Bryan Gay after he went missing near the small town of Skagway, Alaska.

He’s just gone.

While the mysterious disappearance of the Montrose native has long since faded from the headlines, his family’s thoughts, questions, and searing pain about what could have happened to Charles Bryan Gay — who went by Bryan — are as strong today as the day he vanished, Sept. 26, 2000.

“I always want to talk about Bryan, doesn’t matter whether I have tears or not,” his mom, Mary Gay, shared with the Times.

“I think of him every day. I even had a dream one time that he opened our back door and walked in,” she tearfully recounted.

“I said, “Hi Brian, where have you been?”

Mary remembers the joy of the moment feeling it was true, but cold reality set in when she opened her eyes to an empty room, and no Bryan.

Her boy was still gone.

She still lives in the family’s Montrose home. But after years of waiting for him to walk through the door especially at Christmas, Mary can now say out loud that she is certain Bryan is dead.

“Everybody loved him, he was such as sweetheart,” she said in a mix of laughter and tears. “But no, he is not alive. If he was, he would have been in contact with us.”

More Trail Times stories here: Local stories

Latest on coronavirus is here: COVID-19

The day was Tuesday when her son, then 28, went missing.

He was a university-graduated geologist who was highly experienced in the rugged back country, having just finished working his third summer at a job in Whitehorse.

Before heading back home to B.C., a friend drove Bryan to the bus station where he bought a ticket to Skagway and once there, checked in to a hostel.

Mary says her son wanted to hike a popular wilderness trail into the Dewey Lakes, located in an alpine range that begins right at the edge of town.

He left on his adventure that morning and was never seen again.

Bryan Gay of Montrose went missing in Skagway Alaska on Sept. 26, 2000. (Charley Project photo)

Searchers scoured the mountains and for many months, no sign of the young geologist turned up anywhere.

The last trace of Brian’s known path was found a year later in an old cabin at the top of Upper Dewey Lake, which is straight up the mountain about five kilometres from the village of 968 people.

A search and rescue team came across a sign-in book inside the mountain-top shack, which held pages of “made-it-to-the-top” signatures so hikers could read who finished the trek before them.

The book was somewhat ravaged by time and elements. But, by happenstance, one of the searchers noticed faded pen markings that, in just the right light, revealed a scratch-note from Brian.

“Great day, great hike, but this goddamn pen ran out of ink. Brian G.”

Mary remembers the community rallying to raise money for the family to travel to Skagway and retrace her son’ steps the following spring. They even consulted a psychic to help guide their journey through Skagway in early 2001.

She recalls so much goodwill from locals and those up north, all helping to emotionally and financially support their searches made that first year with a rented motor home serving as base camp.

Brother Kevin Gay travelled back to the Alaskan town for years hoping to find a clue of what happened to his younger brother. Youngest sibling Mary Ann was first on stage in Kelowna seven years ago to ask internationally known spiritual medium Sylvia Browne if she could tell her anything about her missing brother.

All roads led to nowhere.

Story from the Trail Times, Dec. 2000

Nothing has every been found of Bryan other the note he left behind in that remote trapper’s shack.

Twenty years on Mary has submitted her DNA for forensics should this cold case ever be solved.

She’s kept herself going by giving back to others in so many ways, such as sitting on Montrose council, and by volunteering for the Legion, community events, senior dinners, food banks and of course, for her treasured Beaver Valley Nitehawks.

Mary is now 78. She keeps her sights on the days ahead, but never far behind is her fierce longing that Brian will someday be found and brought home to rest in peace alongside his dad Butch Gay, a kind and loving man who passed away five years ago.

“All we can do is hope and pray that something will come out of this,” Mary smiled. “Because things have been found 20 years later in other (cases), so you just don’t know. And we still think of him every single day.”



newsroom@trailtimes.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

kootenaymissing person

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Suspect arrested after armed robbery in downtown Castlegar

Victim was allegedly threatened with knife and bear spray

The Skinny Genes Foundation is raising awareness and funds for a rare genetic disorder that claimed both his father and uncle.
NHL players, local businesses help Kootenay man raise funds and awareness for rare genetic disease

Signed NHL jerseys and local business donations up for auction in Skinny Genes Foundation fundraiser

(file photo)
Nomination packages available for Castlegar byelection

The mayor’s seat and one council seat will be on the ballot

Columbia Avenue Redevelopment — Phase 2 will begin in February. Image: City of Castlegar
Construction on the Columbia Avenue Redevelopment Project beginning March 1

Crews will be clearing brush and trees and removing asphalt

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Arrow Lakes Caribou Society said the new caribou pen near the Nakusp Hotsprings is close to completion. (Submitted)
Maternity caribou pen near Nakusp inches closer to fruition

While Nakusp recently approved the project’s lease, caribou captures are delayed due to COVID-19

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

Most Read