By: Jeremy Grimaldi
That's the word used by Rob Hagans to describe the news a skull discovered by pedestrians in Thornhill Sunday belonged to his father, Robert.
It was on one of the hottest days of 2011 – July 22 – the 76-year-old North York resident went missing.
The only details Rob and his three brothers have about that day is that their father originally set out from his Finch Avenue East and Don Mills Road home for the Services Canada office on Yonge Street, north of Sheppard Avenue.
The last time he was seen was on surveillance cameras at 4900 Yonge St. at 1 p.m. that day.
What happened next may never be known.
Until Wednesday, when York Regional Police officers who showed up at Rob's door to share their discovery with the family, everyone had their own theories about what had happened to Mr. Hagans.
"It's bittersweet to have closure. We have answers, but they are incomplete," Rob said today. "Considering the circumstances and where he was, it opens up so many more questions."
Rob is mystified at how his father would have made the roughly 16-kilometre journey from his home to Services Canada and then on to the site where his remains were eventually found, near Callaway Court in Thornhill.
"He walked a lot, but for a 76-year-old, that's hard to believe, especially considering he didn't have any money on him at the time," he added.
Although police are now saying they do not believe foul play is involved in the death, Rob said he has had a hard time swallowing that.
"It's hard not to think: why and how would he end up there?" he said. "The mystery is partially solved because he was found, but the circumstances of how (he met his fate) are festering in my mind. I just wish I could get some definitive answers, everything is incomplete."
Although his father was never diagnosed with symptoms, Rob admitted he and other members of his family were beginning to question if they were witnessing the beginning stages of dementia before he went missing.
"We suspected it, but it was never diagnosed," he added. "There were signs that something was going amiss."
On Tuesday, before the discovery, one of the lead investigators in the case, Det.-Sgt. John Braybrook, mused if skull could have belonged to someone with Alzheimer disease who became disorientated.
Although questions still remain, Rob was also upbeat that a huge weight had been lifted from his mind after 18 months of questions.
"There's a huge relief when someone finally told me that the journey was over and that me father had been found," he said. "We rejoiced that our stresses would be over."
When he learned the news, the first thing he did was call family in Toronto, Calgary, Victoria and Ireland.
He long ago stopped listening to news with his father's discovery in mind.
"Every time we saw a news story and they had found something, our hearts pumped into our throats," Rob said. "We had just resigned ourselves to the fact that when —or if — police found him, they would come and tell us. But when I saw police at my door, I knew instinctively (the skull) belonged to my father.
"Even if you try not to think about it, I guess there is a part of your mind where it does register."
Everyone in his family had theories about what happened to their father, ranging from him winning the lottery and moving to Barbados to being abducted by aliens.
"The thing that kept me sane was (the thought) he was abducted, because that's something he would have got a kick out of," Rob added.
He said his father was devoted to science fiction and was halfway through writing a book about physics, specifically, time space and a theory on black holes.
"He was convinced of his theories and he wanted eventually to take them to Stephen Hawking," he said with a chuckle.
As far as what kind of man his dad was, he called the five-foot, two-inch former mechanical engineer a "feisty" character.
"He was a fun loving, great guy, who would give you the shirt off his back," Rob said. "He was the kind of guy, where even if it would get him in trouble he would do it for you. He was strong and stubborn, he was the quintessential Irishman."
He also shared details of how police determined the skull had belonged to his father.
According to Rob, police found some of his father's clothes and located a bank card along with segments of his shoulder, which contained parts from replacement surgery.
A funeral will be planned after the investigation is complete.
"We've waiting this long, a few more weeks won't hurt," Rob said.
Mr. Hagans is survived by sons Bill, Steven, Rob and Jeff.
– York Region Media Group