GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Meryl Robertson, daughter of missing Australian hiker John Parsons, yesterday held up a medallion in the shape of a dog tag bearing the image of her father.
Hiker’s kin halt search
The family of the 77-year-old man is exhausted and will return to Australia
Hiker John Parsons was an adventurous man who loved to take risks.
Yesterday, his family announced that they have ended their search for the grandfather and 77-year-old home builder from Bendigo, Australia. Six of his family members have been in Honolulu for about two weeks, searching around the trails of Waimalu near Pearl City from about 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They stopped searching four days ago and will return home today.
"It's a very difficult decision to make," said Meryl Robertson, Parsons' daughter and a schoolteacher in Australia. "We really would love to take our dad home with us."
She said the family is exhausted from the search and has to return to their lives and families in Australia.
"Giving up is really, really difficult," she said. "If I could stay here longer, I really would."
The family posted a memorial plaque yesterday on a tree that Parsons passed on Sept. 4 at the trail head leading to the Waimalu Ditch Trail. He departed alone and was reported missing later that day.
At a press conference, Robertson thanked firefighters, police and the public for their help.
"We have been really truly blessed by the people in this area," she said. "They have been amazing."
Rotary Club of Honolulu Sunset lent her a rental car, and local hunters and a hiking club also helped in the search. "We feel indebted to them," she said.
The Honolulu Fire Department searched five days, covering more than 12 square miles.
A pig hunter reported meeting Parsons on the trail the day he was reported missing. Robertson said the pig hunter told her father to wait because he was lost, but her father was gone when the pig hunter returned.
She described her father as a gregarious man who had been traveling since the 1950s.
Ray Robertson, Meryl Robertson's husband, said family members headed out in pairs and covered about 8 square miles.
The trail, he said, consisted of ravines, streams and cliffs, and was inaccessible in many places. They chopped through forest with machetes and saws and saw several pig trails, making it easy to get lost.
The trail was "treacherous," he said, adding, "I wouldn't hike it alone."
Police assured the family that there was no crime, he said.
Parsons' friend Alexander "Sandy" Gaston, 61, who met Parsons on a cruise in 1976, said Parsons was visiting him on his way back home after a trip to California where he hiked the Sierra Nevada mountains. Parsons had hiked the same trail where he disappeared on a visit about four years ago, he said. He never thought that Parsons would run into trouble.
Parsons' other survivors include sons Russell and Ian; daughter Glenda Serpell; a brother and sister, and 12 grandchildren.
"They're a very cohesive and loving family," said Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Terry Seelig, who worked with the family during the search. "We just wish we were able to find their dad."