May 7 is a date that holds a sad distinction for some of the people who have lived in the Columbia Valley for a long time due to the disappearance 50 years ago of a 12-year-old girl.
It was on this day in 1961 that Brenda Byman was out with friends. According to her sister, Audrey Pepin, Byman had gone out that day for a picnic with friends from school. At three in the afternoon Pepin’s uncle was sent out to look for Byman because she was supposed to have been home. Pepin said that her uncle met up with some local boys who said that Byman had left the area, and in the 50 years since no one has seen a sign of her little sister.
“Not a scrap of material, nada, nothing,” said Pepin. “She disappeared and has never been found.”
The family has gone on with their lives since their loss, but have also held on to the hope that some day there would be closure.
“You always hope she is alive somewhere. Mostly you hope that she didn’t suffer and she didn’t run around in the bush hungry. We hope for closure for the family,” Pepin said.
Over the years many members of the family have suffered from different effects of the loss. Stories and conspiracy theories also developed over the years according to Pepin. One of the most difficult was that the young girl had been sent to Ontario only to return to the Valley years later with a new name.
Investigators have also had to deal with numerous sightings in various provinces, Pepin said. However, none of them ever answered any questions on what really happened.
Pepin admits that she spent many years waiting for a knock on the door that would answer her hopes, but so far it has never come.
Even though Byman went missing a long time ago, one thing that Pepin has remembered over the many years was the way people came out to try and find her sister.
“I was on a search everyday. All of the mills shut down, the miners from Panorama came on the search, men gave up their wages for a week and people raised funds to bring a special dog in to try and pick up the trail. The lake and creeks were searched. All of those people who searched for her gave so much to us,” Pepin said. Pepin still hopes that at some point there will be a final answer found, and one way or the other she will be able to know the truth of what happened on a sunny day 50 years ago.