Community BBQ thanks South Baymouth residents in search for missing woman

A splendid turnout last Wednesday during South Baymouth’s community barbecue in John Budd Park. Organized by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) as a show of appreciation for the community’s support during the search and rescue mission for Shirely-Ann Robbie, law enforcement officers, fire fighters, first responders and residents enjoyed one another’s company with hotdogs, burgers and snacks.

SOUTH BAYMOUTH – On Wednesday, July 3, a cool day greeted over 40 community members and responders during a community barbecue hosted by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in John Budd Park, South Baymouth. The afternoon was organized to give special thanks to residents of South Baymouth for their efforts in supporting first responders and volunteers during the successful search for Shirley-Ann Robbie.

“I think it’s important to thank people for what they did,” shared Constable Marie Ford, community services officer with the Manitoulin OPP. Officers took this occasion to share with everyone their heartfelt gratitude for the support they received during their search. “In a community like this, everyone feels responsible for one another,” said Constable Ford.

“I cried,” said Loraine Mucha, vice-president of the South Baymouth community group and Little Schoolhouse and Museum curator. She felt relief upon learning of her safe return. “I felt pretty bad because I knew what shape she was in.”

There were approximately 60 rescue service officers and volunteers during the search, according to OPP Officer Roch Perrault. Sixteen of those were in the emergency response team, four in the marine unit, two officers in the helicopter, six detachment officers and an estimated six in the underwater search and recovery team.

“She disappeared it seemed like minutes,” said Duncan Robbie, husband of Ms. Robbie. “She was there in the front lawn and all of a sudden she was gone.” Ms. Robbie lives with dementia.

Support from the South Baymouth community was almost immediate after learning about Ms. Robbie’s missing status. “It was all word of mouth,” said Ms. Mucha. Information was shared door to door, which then led local businesses and volunteers to provide support for responders. 

Huron Motor Lodge provided coffee while Wigwam Pizza, Pierside Restaurant and residents of South Baymouth gathered their provisions to provide additional food and support when necessary. 

“That what we do in this community,” said Ms. Mucha. “You just say the word and we’re there.”

Mr. Robbie felt an overwhelming sense of relief upon learning about his wife’s safe recovery: “It was amazing. Two days of stress, getting to the end of the second day…it seems liked the 11th hour. Then they said they found her.”

Ms. Robbie was found in the area two days later, on Wednesday, June 18. She is currently staying in a care home in Sault Saint Marie, close to her two daughters.

For Constable Ford, circumstances like these offer an opportunity for the greater Manitoulin community to better inform themselves about services for people affected by dementia or who may wander. 

Services like Project Lifesaver and Medic Alert offer quick response rates by informing law enforcement with up-to-date information about the missing person and a tracking service that is both reliable and efficient.

For one, services like these can cut down on search time and resources considerably. For Project Lifesaver, Constable Ford says the average time to find someone lowers to half an hour. “It’s extremely quick,” notes Constable Ford.

The OPP is hoping to expand Project Lifesaver’s reach across Manitoulin. 

“The big thing that comes to mind for people with dementia, it’s like looking after a toddler at a swimming pool,” says Mr. Robbie. “You have to never let up watching them because things can happen in an instant, and a person with dementia will get lost.”

If you know someone affected with dementia and are interested in learning more about these services, contact your local OPP office for more information.