WATERLOO

As one Waterloo family prepares funeral services to mark the tragic end of a months-long missing person case, other area families remain haunted over memories of their missing loved ones.

Tracy Ann Carson, 39, will be laid to rest this week, more than six months after she disappeared from a La Porte Road tavern.

Her body was found in Crane Creek Wednesday, the victim of a homicide.

Visitation will be 4 to 8 p.m. today at Hagarty-Waychoff-Grarup Funeral Service on West Ridgeway, and memorial services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday at Kimball Avenue United Methodist Church.

But, while those who called Carson sister, daughter and mother can now say their goodbyes, a half dozen or so other Black Hawk County residents remain on the Iowa Department of Public Safety's list of more than 200 missing persons.

"As long as you're alive as a mom and dad, you're still hoping. You never really give up hope," said Marga Kirchhoff, mother of Steven Kirchhoff. "Well, I guess you're hoping for a miracle is what you're hoping for."

Steven Kirchhoff of Waterloo vanished Jan. 24, 1978. The state lists his case as involuntary, which is used for people who are missing under circumstances believed to be abduction.

Willie Ann Rucker's disappearance is also in the involuntary category. She was last seen in April 1979 when she was 27 years old.

Her cousin, who was 7 or 8 years old at the time, has followed Carson's case from the beginning.

"I thought the same thing I think with Ann - that she was dead," Corala Rucker said.

She reached the conclusion about her cousin's fate for many of the reasons authorities were suspicious about Carson's disappearance.

"She has kids and she hasn't tried to make any kind of contact with them," Corala Rucker said of her cousin. "If she was alive, she would have tried to make contact with the children."

Willie Ann Rucker called her sister from a grocery store after working late April 8 and asked her to take the children to an apartment on West Donald Street where she would meet them. She never arrived.

Steven Kirchhoff was 22 when he vanished. Today he would be 45.

Kirchhoff disappeared about the same time another man, Richard Forsythe, vanished. There were also rumors of drug dealing and stories Forsythe was seen carrying something wrapped in a rug the following day.

The Kirchhoff family tracked Forsythe, who remains listed as an involuntary missing person, to an uncle's home in Arizona. However, Forsythe allegedly got wind of the search from police and fled, Marga Kirchhoff said.

"We know that if Steve were alive, he would have contacted us," she said. "If he were alive and knew who he was, he would have contacted us."

Having accepted that the chances of their son returning alive are slim, the parents would settle for knowing the truth about what happened.

"If anybody would know anything, what would be the harm in telling us now after 22 years -- going on 23?" Kirchhoff said. "It's been so long, what would be the harm in somebody telling us?"

The Kirchhoffs followed news of Carson's disappearance, and Marga was approached about meeting with Carson's family to relate her own experiences.

The meeting never happened, in part because of an illness in the Kirchhoff family. Besides, Marga Kirchhoff wondered how she could offer hope to another family when she was still waiting to find out what happened to her our son.

She felt relief for Carson's friends and relatives when her body was found last week.

"I guess it's bad when you consider somebody lucky when they find their dead child," she said. "It always comes to my mind how lucky they are. Well, I know they're not lucky because their child is dead."

Although Marga Kirchhoff and her husband, Clarence, still have hope their lost son is alive, they have added his name to the tombstone that will mark their own graves.

"That was a hard thing to do," she said. "One of the reasons we did it was so we at least have Steve's name some place. If we never get to bury him, it would be like he never lived."

Other local people on the state's missing list include Daniel John Andersen, reported missing in 1992; Gary Allan Brown, 1998; James Pretlow, 1984; and Mattie Zabel, 1978.

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