Thursday, November 11, 2010

Local Man Goes Missing: Family Asks for Help in Finding Missing Alzheimer Patient

By Patricia Adams

The family of Giuseppe Russo is continuing to lead an exhausting search for the Howard Beach resident who went missing from his home last week. Russo suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and emphysema and was last seen by a neighbor near his house on 89th Street and 160th Avenue around 4:30 p.m. last Thursday.
Maria Ingrassia and her brother Frank Russo

“My father loved to take walks,” Russo’s daughter, Maria Inglassia told The Forum and NY1 in an interview at her parents home on Tuesday. “He likes to get a sandwich at Sugar Bun.” But the walks had dwindled over the last seven months since his diagnosis and he rarely leaves the house now.

His wife, Maria Russo, said she last saw her husband around 12:30 in the afternoon before she left the house to go back to work. “He was going to have his lunch and coffee. Everything was fine.” Now she fears for her husband of 35 years, despite the fact that he was improving since he started on a medication program. “He was getting better because of the medicine. There was a big difference.” But Joseph left his house with no money, no phone, no wallet, no identification—and most importantly no medication. Now his family fears that he will likely be in an agitated state without his Alzheimer meds and could be unable to breathe without his inhaler.

The family has been searching, with the help of other family members, friends and volunteers since the disappearance on Thursday. Hospitals throughout the tri-state were contacted. More than 4,000 flyers with his description and picture have been posted in Howard Beach, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel, and Belle Harbor. The search area was extended to parts of Brooklyn including Marine Park, Sheepshead Bay, East New York and Canarsie, where the Russo’s made their home before coming to Howard Beach a little more than 10 years ago.

“Our father loves the water and likes to fish,” explained youngest son, Frank Russo. “That is why we are concentrating on areas near the water and places he may feel comfortable.” One of Joseph’s favorite places is the fishing pier along the Belt Parkway in Canarsie.

A coordinated effort by detectives at the 106th Precinct included a K-9 search, aviation flyovers of the immediate area and a harbor unit water search. On Saturday afternoon, the United Federation of Black Cowboys responded to a request made by The Forum to join in a search on horseback along the shoreline and through difficult to reach areas in the weeds.

“This is a prime example of how this community comes together whenever the need rises,” said Pat McCabe speaking on behalf of state Sen. Joe Addabbo. “Our office reached out to The Forum and the supplementary search efforts began to come together quickly.”

Councilmember Eric Ulrich provided the family with help securing surveillance videos from local business and was instrumental in coordinating efforts to get the word out at all Sunday masses in local parishes.

Various tips have been phoned in, with the most recent that Russo was seen at Modell’s Sporting Goods store near the junction of Rockaway Boulevard and Liberty Avenue. However, after reviewing a section of the store’s video tape, no positive identification could be made.

“We are so grateful for everyone’s help in trying to find my father,” a tearful Maria Ingrassia said. “I’m begging you; if you see him just hold him until the police get there. Please we need your help. We’ve got to find him.” The family is offering a generous reward for anyone who helps with the safe return of Joseph Russo.

Ingrassia made a point to say that without having taken his meds, her father might have returned to a confused, agitated state that is common in Alzheimer patients. “He also might look unkempt because his beard will have grown in. I urge people not to be frightened and just to remember he’s ill. And he’s a father. He’s a great father. He’s my father.”

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