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Grieving Granddad Missing, Feared Dead

January 6, 1996

PAW PAW, Mich. (AP) _ Devastated by the death of his 5-year-old granddaughter, Mack Jones grabbed a shotgun and walked out of his lakefront trailer, leaving behind his dentures, his wallet, even the keys to his Buick.

That was more than two weeks ago. No one has seen him since.

A search through the snow using dogs and a helicopter turned up nothing. Authorities suspect the 70-year-old retired teacher probably killed himself.

``We feel we need to wait until the snow melts and ice comes off the lake,″ said son-in-law Rudy Neumeier.

It is a twin tragedy for a family still grieving over young Megan Adam, who was fatally struck by her own school bus Dec. 12 in front of her house in Cassopolis. The driver apparently didn’t see the girl when she got off the bus.

``She was his angel,″ Neumeier said. ``It had something to do with his disappearance, sure.″

Before the World War II tailgunner disappeared Dec. 20, he left a note asking his family to keep an eye on his sister, Arlene, who lived next door.

Friends and former colleagues can’t believe he could have committed suicide. Wiry and bald, Jones, who was divorced, is described as an upbeat man with a passion for golf, family and daily coffee at the Big Boy restaurant in Paw Paw, about 20 miles west of Kalamazoo.

Former students who bumped into him were surprised that he could recall their names after decades of teaching at Decatur’s Bergen Elementary School.

``How many teachers do that?″ asked Pat Tortorelli, manager of a gas station in Decatur.

Ken Klinkers was a student at Bergen who returned to teach next to Jones’ sixth-grade classroom.

``He was always interested in satisfying kids,″ Klinkers said. ``There was a boy who grew up not too wealthy. When everyone was giving Mack Christmas presents, he got an old tie out of his dad’s drawer.″

``The other students teased him about giving the tie. But the first day after vacation, Mack wore it. He knew it was important,″ Klinkers said.

Klinkers saw Jones about six weeks ago at a basketball game.

``I always got on him about his smoking,″ Klinkers said. ``He said, `You notice I’m not coughing.′ He was in a good mood.

``Of course, that was before his granddaughter died.″

Indeed, Megan’s death two weeks before Christmas was devastating. Jones told his daughter, Marjorie Adam, that he should be the one in the casket.

When he took his regular seat at Big Boy’s table 10, ``he looked like a ghost,″ owner Chris Khoury said.

The sheriff’s department suspended the ground search but is following up on all tips. Relatives, meanwhile, walk the lake and the woods near the trailer whenever they can.

And in Cassopolis, about 30 miles south, the American flag at Megan’s house flies at half-staff. It will remain that way until Jones is found.

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