Families of Hope: Martha Gill Hamilton
Martha Gill Hamilton’s sister went missing in 1965. She now volunteers for Team HOPE. Read about her experience in our ongoing series from volunteers with Team HOPE, a peer support program for families with missing or sexually exploited children.
I’ve written a lot of stories about my sister, but mostly “just the facts,” not the heartache. Elizabeth Ann Gill, known as Beth to the Gill family, disappeared on June 13, 1965 at age two in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
Our family has searched for 49 long years, but has also hoped. We’ve hoped that she has had a good life with a loving family, but also that maybe she is searching for us as well.
Beth was the youngest of 10 children. She was coddled and spoiled by all. Beth was the sweetest child with a great personality. She loved going with family and friends and being the center of attention. One of her favorite things to do was to ride in her sister Laura’s husband’s “Gold Wustang” (her 2-year-old word for Mustang). While our family struggled financially, there was never a shortage of love.
Searching without resources
When Beth went missing, our local law enforcement had no idea how to properly investigate or search for a missing child. In 1965 the FBI didn’t help, there was no AMBER Alert, no National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, no national 24-hour news coverage, no Internet and very few ways to spread the word.
One possibility, a theory law enforcement has looked into, is that Beth was taken by a group of travelers.
On June 14, the day after Beth went missing, a lead came from an auto dealer. The dealer said that people staying at a motel behind our house didn’t show up for parts they’d ordered. They also had checked out unexpectedly around the time Beth went missing. It was soon learned that these travelers were using various license plates and aliases. They were selling purses door to door and had approached Beth several times.
One minute Beth was playing with the older kids and the next, she could not be found.
The travelers’ vehicle was traced to a dealership in Michigan where they had purchased cars every few years in the past, but never returned after June 1965. We knew they’d previously driven a 1965 Chevy pick-up and 1965 Ford Thunderbird. For years we looked at every one of these cars we saw. My mother even made a trip to Michigan to plead with the dealership for information.
Changing family dynamic
This tragic event changed the whole dynamic of the Gill family. For years my Mom was barely able to function. My Dad grieved until his death in 1970, leaving my Mom to raise the younger kids, ages 10 through 17. My mom went on, as she had too.
It saddens me knowing how my younger siblings lost much of their childhood. When everyone’s focus is on the missing child and the parents, the siblings aren’t getting the emotional support they so badly need.
My sister Trish was sent to stay with my frail grandma who lived a few blocks away. She’s told me of coming by our house and looking in the window to see if our Dad was at the table crying. If he was she wouldn’t come in, but go back to our grandma’s, even sadder. It’s devastating to see your parents in such pain, knowing you can’t help. I became an adult on June 13, 1965 at age 15.
For many years we didn’t talk to my Mom about Beth – it was just too painful for her. Now she’s grateful for the possibility that, before she’s gone, she may once again see her baby. My Mom is just amazing. She lost her baby, husband and two other daughters. She remarried, but her dear Ralph died a few years ago too. Maybe it’s hope that keeps her here.
I’ve been blessed in many ways, including my Team HOPE Family and all associated with helping the missing. If I can help bring one child home, I know I have done what God sent me to do. June 13, 2014 was not a happy day, but one of faith and hope for the Elizabeth Ann Gill family.
Elizabeth Ann Gill is still missing. View her poster here: http://ow.ly/y8uN1. If you have any information, contact us at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678). Calls can be made anonymously.