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Family, friends celebrate missing man's birthday

April 22, 2001

Family, friends celebrate missing man's birthday



By STACEY DANZUSO / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


Family and friends of Justin Hayduk silently watched the balloons they had launched float across Interstate 81 and out of sight Sunday afternoon as they celebrated the missing man's 19th birthday.

Most of the afternoon was filled with cake, music and conversation at Chambersburg Memorial Park, but the mood turned reflective as family members released the 600 balloons skyward.

"I feel a responsibility to his friends. This is more for them," said Cheryl Hayduk, Justin's mother, who began planning for the birthday celebration several weeks ago.

Justin Hayduk has been missing since March 10, when he was separated from friends he was visiting in Morgantown, W.Va. The 2000 Chambersburg Area High School graduate and freshman at the University of Pittsburgh has not been heard from since.

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Cheryl Hayduk said the party was an opportunity to support one another and "pull together mentally, physically and emotionally and to send a positive message to Justin wherever he may be at this time."

More than 100 people attended Sunday's party, including several friends from the University of Pittsburgh, who drove down for the day.

"We all wanted to be here," said Matt Weaver, 18, of Chambersburg, a friend of Justin's since the eighth grade and a fraternity brother at the University of Pittsburgh.

Weaver said final exams, which begin today, forced some Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers and other friends to stay behind.

He said getting through the semester since Justin's disappearance has been rough.

"I always feel like something is not right," he said. "I keep waiting for him to walk through the door."

The party also drew some who only know Justin through newspaper accounts of his disappearance.

"My heart just goes out to the family," said Annabelle Smetzer, a Waynesboro, Pa., resident who said she had never met the Hayduks.

But a grandmother of eight, Smetzer said she was touched by the story.

"Faith and God may be the only hope. I pray that some way through this, they will hear something out of today," Smetzer said.

Prior to the balloon launch, the Rev. Clyde DeShong, pastor at Calvary United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, Pa., also called on God to look out for Justin and his family.

"Lord, hear the prayers for Justin," he said. "Today we rejoice in his birth ... Even now in his absence, we continue to be touched by him."

Each balloon contained a reward notice, describing Justin and the circumstances of his disappearance.

Family and friends have collected $5,000 for the reward.

So far, no one has been able to provide the Morgantown (W.Va.) Police with any leads. The only break in the case was the discovery of a hat, believed to be Justin's, shortly after he disappeared near the Monongahela River.

Hayduk is a white male, about 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighing about 140 pounds with brown hair and eyes. He was last seen wearing a University of Pittsburgh baseball cap, a tan vest over a plaid shirt and jeans.

Anyone with information can call the Morgantown Police Detective Division at 1-304-284-7454.

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