TOWN OF BELOIT — It’s been an excruciating week for the family of Stuart Austin. Since the 84-year-old man went missing on Tuesday, his family has been desperately searching for who they say is kind, gentle and loves to drive.
“It’s been awful. You sit here and you think about what he could be going through, and you cry. It’s so cold. We don’t know where he’s been sleeping. The unknown is what is terrifying,” said Stuart’s granddaughter Amy Montour. “We just feel sick all of the time.”
Some of Austin’s many family members include his children Sue Mitchell, Mike Austin, Pat Austin, Bob Austin, Jim Austin and more than 20 grandchildren. Austin is retired after working at Fairbanks Morse and later as a real estate agent.
Stuart was last seen wearing a tan jacket, gray sweatshirt and gray pants. He is white, 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighs 185 pounds. Authorities believe he was driving a white, 2013 Lincoln MKS with Wisconsin plates 308-FCL with a Wounded Warrior Project sticker on the back.
Montour said her grandfather broke from his routine when he went missing Tuesday.
Austin was known to go to Madison to visit a cousin two or three times a week. He typically would leave in the morning and return to rest at home in the afternoon before picking up a lady friend for dinner. After sharing a dinner with his friend, he would drop her off at home and then go stay overnight at the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Amy and Ray Mitchell. Although Austin had his own home, he didn’t like to spend the night there.
“After grandma passed away, he wanted to sleep at my mom’s house,” Montour said.
Austin also was known to stop at the cemetery to visit his late wife during his many travels over the past few years.
However, on Tuesday Austin never returned home to his loved ones. Montour said her mother, Sue Mitchell, had seen her grandfather Tuesday morning and he seemed fine. Although he had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, he lived a normal life.
Austin liked to drive a lot, sometimes driving past the homes of his relatives.
“He liked to drive and occasionally stopped in and visited. He didn’t like to sit around,” Montour said. “He was extremely well loved. He’s a kind, gentle and playful man. He loved everybody deeply.”
Since Tuesday, Montour said the family has been communicating with authorities, posting to Facebook and speaking to the media. They are planning a search via their vehicles today. Family members will be fanning out to search the country and side roads between Beloit and north of Madison. She said police have notified the family that airplanes have been searching for him.
Austin is a Korean War Era Veteran and served in the U.S. Navy.
VetsRoll founder Mark Finnegan said Austin took the VetsRoll trip in 2014. Finnegan has been posting his picture and information on the VetsRoll Facebook page which is viewed by people all over the country. He encourages people to print off the poster with his picture and information and to get it into the windows of every business in the region.
“Somewhere, somebody’s seen him,” Finnegan said. “We want so badly to find him.”
Finnegan encouraged everyone to be on the lookout for Austin and to contact authorities if his vehicle is spotted.
“It’s at a critical point right now,” Finnegan said.
Finnegan said information has been broadcast via a Silver Alert, although he noted it’s different than an Amber alert as people have to subscribe to the service to receive the notifications. Finnegan said notification also went out to all the towing companies in Wisconsin in case a vehicle matched the description. He said all of the 35 people who were on the VetsRoll trip were being called to see if anyone had heard from him. He said Stuart got a cell phone at Christmas but he didn’t have it with him at the time he went missing. He said there hasn’t been any transactions on his debit or credit cards since he was last seen.
At 5 a.m. Wednesday, Town of Beloit Police received a report of a possible sighting of Austin’s vehicle in Brown County although it can’t be confirmed.
Anyone with information should call Town of Beloit Police Department at 608-757-2244.