Grand Haven Daily Tribune  June 29, 1959

Boy 5, Missing at Oval 2 Days


Don Steensma Disappears from S. Pier

Boy Scouts Called out at 1 p.m.

By Bill Michael

   Hundreds line south pier Sunday to watch dragging operations for  missing boy.

   Area Boy Scouts this afternoon began a land search for a missing five-year-old Grand Rapids boy who disappeared from the south pier around Saturday noon.

   Six state police skin divers, who have searched the lakeside of the pier, the harbor entrance and the river down to the Woodbine, for the body of Donald Steensma gave up about noon today.  Donald is the son of Mr. and Mrs. John Steensma, 2634 Blaine.

   Dragging operations, which began Saturday, will continue this afternoon in the government pond,  Richard Klempel, Grand Haven chief of police in charge of the search, said this afternoon.      

   Boats will be out again Tuesday, Klempel said, because that will be the third day of the boy’s disappearance, and it usually takes three days for a body to rise to the surface.           


   BOY SCOUTS, second class and over, and Explorer scouts, set out at 1 p.m. today from the city police station to search the hilly and wooded area from behind the power plant to Lake avenue and beyond if possible.   

   Donald vanished while apparently walking along the pier towards the family house trailer on the beach.  Apparently nobody saw him fall into the water or leave with someone else.

   Police are also checking the possibility of a kidnapping.  They have questioned many people, most of whom were fishing on the pier when Donald disappeared, on the chance that he was abducted or enticed away.    

   Saturday, the Harbor entrance was dragged until midnight.  Sunday, the searchers dragged and searched the Woodbine dock and today skin divers and drag boats combed the lakeside of the south pier.

Donald Steensma


   OFFICERS have also checked all the cottages in the area, the beach and the sea wall from the Woodbine to the pier in the search.  They have shown pictures of the boy to hundreds of people but nobody so far queried has seen Donald.

   He was last seen around noon standing against the fog horn station.  He had told his father, with whom he was fishing that he was going to the trailer because the fog horn blasts hurt his ears.

   Donald, his father and his 12-year-old brother John Allen, and a chum of John’s had gone fishing together. They fished the river side first then switched to the lakeside at the end of the pier.


   STEENSMA told police his daughter Mary, 9 came out about the time Donald wanted to come home and the two children left together.  A few minutes later Mary came back and left Donald near the fog horn house.

   Mary helped her father with the fishing for a while, then went to the beach where she met a friend and played along the beach.

   Steensma, thinking his son had gone to the trailer, continued to fish and then went to the trailer.  Mrs. Steensma thought Donald was with his father and Steensma thought Donald was with Mary.

   At 3 p.m. Mrs. Steensma asked where Donald was and her husband said he thought he was with her.  They became alarmed and called the state police.  Then the search began, a search that continued today.


Skin divers operate from 30-foot Coast Guard craft.


   A description of blue-eyed, blond-haired Donald was broadcast by state police and other departments and are now searching for the missing boy.    

   DONALD, who weighed 40 pounds, has his haircut brush style.  He was wearing a light blue baseball type jacket with a Little League emblem on it, blue jeans and tennis shoes.

   Steensma and his family have been coming here for four years and Donald knew the park well.  His father said that he was not alarmed about the boy going ashore alone because he had been on the pier “hundreds of times”.

   However, fate may have stepped in there.  About the time Donald vanished, a jet plane buzzed the beach several times.  It is possible that Donald fell into the water while everybody was looking at the plane.

   Steensma figures his son disappeared between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. during which time the plane swooped down over the park several times.

   “If I could find some sort of clue, somebody who had seen him from 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.  If I could just get some sort of clue so I would know where he had been then,” the father appealed.

   “My greatest hope now is that they just find him, one way or another.  It’s the waiting.  It just hurts you,” he said softly.

   “I’ll offer a reward for any information.  Just so I can get something on the guy (Donald).”


   HE EXPLAINED he had brought his family and their trailer to the park on Tuesday and that he had been commuting between here and Grand Rapids where he works as a tool grinder for the Jarecki Machine and Tool Co.

   He stayed the weekend to take his sons fishing.  The family was going to stay here until July 7 or 8, then a few days later go to Interlochen for the father’s two week vacation.  With his family came his wife’s parents, Mrs. Edward Hoogeboom, who have their own trailer.  The two families always vacationed together.

   “The first thing to hit my mind was the ... Gorham case,” Steensma said today when talking about his son’s disappearance.  Boy Scout Peter Gorham disappeared near Muskegon several years ago and was later found murdered.  A former Muskegon man was convicted of the crime and sent to prison.

   Donald was an independent child and very friendly.  Steensma said of his son.


   EVEN WHILE TALKING to reporters on the south pier, his eyes stayed constantly on the Coast Guard boat, and the city fire department boat that were helping the six skin divers search the quiet but rolling waters.

   His wife, Betty, came out on the pier with him, but wandered out towards the fog horn house while her husband talked calmly and softly to newsmen.  She too watched the boats bobbing in the water and the divers that popped to the surface briefly, talked to men in the boats, and disappeared again below the rolling breakers.

   People continued to fish from the pier, but they were quiet.  Their eyes strayed often from their bobbers to the boats.

   Donald was very interested in tools and machinery, his father continued.  He was going into first grade at Seymour Christian School in the fall.  He interrupted himself as he continued his watch on the boats;  “If only somebody had seen him.”