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Clara Marie Grunst, age 21, vanished from Joplin, Missouri on October 9, 1984.

From what her mother understood, Clara planned to hitchhike from Joplin to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she was living at the time and looking for a job.

She was last witnessed at a truck stop, entering a truck near Highway 44 and Highway 43 in Joplin.  The driver of the truck, who was from Milwaukee, was located and questioned.  He reportedly gave conflicting statements, but there wasn’t sufficient evidence to charge him with any wrongdoing.

Clara is believed to have made a phone call to her brother at 11:40am the following day, from a pay phone in Pittsburg, Kansas, and nobody has heard from her since.

Clara enjoyed traveling and hitchhiked often.  She communicated via CB radio, using the handles Missouri Sunshine, Blondie and Blue Eyes.

It appears that Clara had been reported missing previously.  In September 1981, when she was 18, she had last been seen at a Greyhound bus station in Springfield, Missouri.  The mother of one of her friends received a phone call from her, in which she said she would be arriving in Carthage, Missouri that night.  When the bus arrived, Clara was not on it.  Her mother had understood that she was going to Republic, Missouri to babysit.

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It’s not 100% clear whether she returned following this 1981 disappearance, only to vanish again in 1984, or if there was only one disappearance and the year has been reported incorrectly.

I lean toward the idea that she vanished twice, because there are differences in the circumstances as well as the year.

However, this Find A Grave entry lists her date of death as 1981.  It reads like an obituary, and contains information that only someone who knew Clara could provide.  The entry includes information on her schooling, and lists several family members as surviving her.

In 2011, Clara’s mother held a memorial service. She passed away in May 2019.  Her four siblings continue to seek answers.

Sources:

The Charley Project

Porchlight International

Websleuths

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2 thoughts on “Clara Grunst

  1. I’m Clara’s brother. She’d gone two weeks into her senior year of highschool. Then hitchhiked to Oregon. This was September 1980.
    When my mother located her, she was returned home and placed in Nevada, mo state hospital until she turned 18.
    Only a few months. After that she worked to gain a GED. Then joined the army, but was released from service due to back issues, scoliosis.
    At some point, she’d quit various jobs and would work truck stops cleaning trucks and hitching rides.
    Eventually she found a job and a guy in Milwaukee. 1984
    In October that year, she returned to Carthage to attend a highschool girlfriend’s wedding.
    My mom and I found a trucker headed to Milwaukee or Chicago
    My mom talked to the guy for a while, and trusts him to take her that way. Mom got quite a bit of his information.
    Clara wasn’t inexperienced in hitching. Though hindsight is always crystal clear, and it was a horrible decision. She had no bank account, or licence. No car. . It was a mistake to allow her to go, but there was no way to keep her in place. She did what she wanted.
    The next day she’d called from Pittsburg, ks saying the driver had gotten rerouted . And it’s been 37 years and I can’t recall the exact conversation.
    She’d always call mom collect. Send mother’s day cards and letters from time to time. And the same with other family. So it was thought something had happened.
    Local law enforcement was hesitant to do anything as she was 21, and investigators could not find any information, or so we were told.
    In those days, DNA really wasn’t a tool that was widely used, and incoming unknown remains could be easily misplaced or lost in a rush to identify.
    Since she hitched, she may have spent nights under bridges and a storm may have suddenly swept her into a river. Gotten too cold in the early fall weather.
    There were always the what if and would have could have thoughts.
    And the oddness of the guy in Milwaukee. And The trucker changed his stories as well.
    Momma is gone now 2 years.
    And I’m a tired old man.
    I spent days devouring websites of the missing and unidentified.
    Familia DNA sent in 2007 to unt North Texas fort worth.
    I suspect that she was misidentified at some point. Merely lost in the system. There’s such a backlog.
    But it remains a mysterious day, 37 years ago of who, what, when, where and why.
    It’s not been easy. No sense of any kind of closure . 37 years is an entire lifetime, it’s like time has been paused. I don’t wish it on anyone.

    • Thank you so much for commenting. I truly hope that Clara can be found so the rest of your family can have some answers. And yes, I agree, as much as your mother obviously cared, there was nothing anyone could do to stop her once her mind was made up.

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