YAKIMA – Marie Hanson made a spur-of-the moment decision last month to attend a “peace rally” in a remote Washington forest, after her neighbors told her they had an extra seat in the car.
Her family hasn’t heard from her since.
The South Lake Tahoe, Calif., woman isn’t the first to go missing during the annual gathering of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a counter-culture group that prays for world peace by the thousands each July 4. Except that Hanson is hardly your stereotypical hippie.
A 54-year-old grandmother of two who cares for her disabled husband, Billy, Hanson had never attended the event. And unlike the teenage runaways who eventually turn up when the gatherings end, Hanson is still missing nearly five weeks later.
Authorities call her case unusual. They say they’re doing all they can to aid the search, but aren’t ruling out that Hanson simply opted to follow the rainbow trail to the next hippie-fest.
Impossible, her family says.
“She would never do this to her family,” said Nancy Enterline, whose son Tim is married to Hanson’s daughter, Tawny. The couple has two children, ages 5 and 10.
“She talked to her daughter every day. She’s been a couple with her husband since she was 16 years old,” Enterline said.
Born out of the ’60s counterculture movement, the Rainbow Family is a gathering of peace activists who gather each July in a national forest.
This year, the 40th annual gathering was held in Washington’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest, about 60 miles northeast of Portland.
On July 1, Hanson’s neighbors told her they had an extra seat in their car for the ride to the gathering. She spontaneously decided to go, telling her family she was going to a “peace rally” and that she’d be back July 10. She called the next day, July 2, with word that she was almost there and she was excited.
An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people attended this year’s gathering.
Hanson’s family reported her missing July 9. All of her belongings were left in her tent, including her purse and medicine for pain following back surgery.
“We don’t even know that we have a crime at this point,” South Lake Tahoe police Detective Jeff Roberson said. “I’m not going to preclude the possibility that she’s out hitchhiking around the country, but as time goes on, our concern becomes greater. This is not her normal course of behavior.”
Hanson has been entered into a federal missing persons database.