Nova Scotia

Family of N.S. man likely swept out to sea grieving amid uncertainty

The family of a Lower Prospect, N.S., man who is believed to have been swept out to sea during post-tropical storm Fiona says they have many questions about his disappearance.

'We have a lot of unanswered questions,' says Larry Smith's niece

A man in a suit poses for the camera.
Larry Smith, 81, was reported missing on Saturday, Sept. 24, and is believed to have been swept out to sea in post-tropical storm Fiona. (Blunden and Associates)

The family of a Lower Prospect, N.S., man who is believed to have been swept out to sea during post-tropical storm Fiona says they have many questions about his disappearance.

Larry Smith, 81, was reported missing to the RCMP on Saturday afternoon when a family member went to check on him at his home on Hennesseys Island and found the patio door open and no sign of him.

"We can only speculate on what happened," says MaryLou Smith, Larry Smith's niece. "We have a lot of unanswered questions and I think those questions are going to stick with us for a long time."

Larry Smith was last in contact with family around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, before the wind and waves from Fiona began to batter the area.

On Saturday, after he was reported missing, crews searched the island by land, water and air. The search was called off on Sunday around 5 p.m.

MaryLou Smith said her uncle had dementia, which could have played a role in his disappearance.

Rocks are in the foreground, looking out toward the bright blue ocean.
Larry Smith loved to come to this spot on Hennesseys Island to sit and relax, have a coffee or go for a swim. (Submitted by MaryLou Smith)

"Like most people with dementia, they have their good days and their bad days, so we don't know what his state of mind was. Was it in the night, was it in the morning once the sun came up and people were going outside to assess damage?

"With the doors blown open, did he open them or did they blow open and he got up and then was confused?"

MaryLou Smith said the theory that her uncle went out toward the water at some point makes the most sense, as no neighbours reported seeing him outside, and the front door was locked.

Hennesseys Island is covered in dense brush, scrub and trees. A footpath leads from Larry Smith's back deck through the trees to the rocks at the edge of the ocean — his favourite spot.

A man wearing yellow shorts and a yellow shirt stands on a rock next to the ocean.
Larry Smith liked the outdoors and liked to travel, hike, swim, kayak and ski. (Submitted by MaryLou Smith)

That was where he loved to sit and relax, have a coffee or go for a swim.

"There was no dock or anything like that, so if you wanted to swim you had to jump. So, he went for the polar dip very regularly," MaryLou Smith said.

MaryLou Smith said her uncle liked the outdoors and liked to travel, hike, swim, kayak and ski.

He was a chartered professional accountant and a former associate professor at Dalhousie University.

The father of three, Larry Smith lived alone on Hennesseys Island, where he had made his home for about 30 years.

"He was a kind, gentle man. He was a man of few words but his words were always well chosen," MaryLou Smith said. "Quick-witted, generous. He was quiet, but he was just a very nice man."

MaryLou Smith said her uncle was introverted and had an unexpected sense of humour.

"Sometimes he could really surprise you with a little zinger or one-liner and so I always loved when that came out."

Discussions about moving

Recently, as his dementia progressed, he had been having conversations with his family about moving to a long-term care home or assisted living facility.

"It was just a matter of where, and they were looking at wait-lists and costs and things like that. So he knew that he needed to move."

MaryLou Smith said her family is devastated by his disappearance, and grappling with disbelief and uncertainty.

"It's that unsettling feeling of, he could come back, but you know that he probably won't," she said.

"We'll just be missing him all the time and we'll always kind of have those questions."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frances Willick is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Please contact her with feedback, story ideas or tips at frances.willick@cbc.ca

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