The Pehrson family pose for a photo in the 1960s, around the time of Raymond Jones’ disappearance. (Family photo)

SALMON, Idaho – Edith Pehrson’s children will never forget their mother who told them that when she died, she would be reunited with Raymond Jones.

Jones and his family lived next door to the Pehrsons in Salmon, and Edith’s husband, Ralph Pehrson, was good friends with them. They bowled together, went hunting and Ralph was likely the last person to see Jones alive on September 7, 1968. Lemhi County Sheriff Steve Penner announced on Tuesday that a hunter had found the remains of Jones in the East Fork of Hayden Creek – 53 years after Jones disappeared.

The Pehrsons’ four children – Karyn Frederickson, Alan Pehrson, Leanne Spencer and Kendra Simpson – shared memories of Jones with this week. They were all young when he disappeared (Simpson was not yet born) but remember their parents talking about their missing friend and constantly wondering where he could be over the years.

“We were pretty close. Ray came by a lot, and I remember him and my dad practicing shooting in the garden,” says Frederickson. “They had hay, and they had a target, and every once in a while, they let me switch targets.”

Jones had a funny sense of humor, and Spencer remembers trying to scare her by dressing in head-to-toe camouflage gear.

“Ray has always been a teaser. I was little, and he put on this camouflage, and he crawled on his hands and his stomach in the grass towards our house,” Spencer says. “I went into the house and shouted, ‘There is a snake! There is a snake!’ and my dad comes out thinking we’ve got a rattle on our back, and there’s Ray – laughing and laughing. “

Jones and Pehrson went elk hunting on Jones’ 39th birthday, the family say. They traveled to the Hayden Creek area in Lemhi County, and Alan remembers his father telling him what had happened.

“They had seen deer and Ray was higher up the mountain than my father,” says Alan. “The last thing my dad saw was Ray told him he was going further up the mountain to hunt mountain goats. Then it started to get dark, so dad came back to camp, and Ray never showed up that night or the next morning. “

Pehrson and two other hunters went looking for Jones and when they couldn’t find him they went into town and called the sheriff. A search was organized, but Jones was never found.

“One thing I remember was the sound of helicopters coming in at night when we were at the house. It was dark and my mother was sobbing,” says Frederickson. “I would say, ‘Mom, maybe they found him.’ She said, ‘No. If they come this late, they haven’t found him.’ I just remember every night she cried and cried and cried. “

People assumed Jones had slipped on rocks and fell off a cliff. Others thought maybe a rock had fallen on him or that he had been the victim of an animal attack. There were even rumors that he left Salmon to start a new life and was seen in Arizona.

Edith was constantly monitoring Donna Jones, Ray’s wife, as the couple had recently adopted a baby. Ralph helped with the research and put away the bow he was using the day his friend went missing.

“I remember being in my parents’ room (years later) and my dad couldn’t reach something in the top of his closet. He asked if I could go up there. and get it, ”says Simpson, Pehrson’s youngest child. “I reached out and said, ‘Oh, there’s a bow up there.’ He said, ‘Yes, that’s my bow and arrows. I don’t think I ever told you the story.’ “

Ralph Pehrson never used his bow and arrows after the disappearance of his friend Ray Jones in September 1968. Pehrson's youngest daughter, Kendra Simpson, now has the bow.
Ralph Pehrson never used his bow and arrows after the disappearance of his friend Ray Jones in September 1968. Pehrson’s youngest daughter, Kendra Simpson, now has the bow. (Photo: Kendra Simpson)

“He told me about Ray and that he never touched that bow again. He just couldn’t bring himself to use it,” Simpson said. “They moved to Boise later and this bow remained in that upper cupboard until he passed away. I now have the bow and arrows in my possession.”

Ralph passed away in 2010, but before his passing he and his children were thinking of Jones.

“When my father died, my last words to him were, ‘Daddy, go find Ray,'” recalls Frederickson. “Then our mother – she always said, ‘When I die, I’ll find Ray. “”

Edith died in June 2019, and when her children learned Tuesday that Jones’ disappearance had been resolved, they cried. An archery hunter, taking a shortcut from one hunting area to another on September 17, discovered human remains and contacted the sheriff’s office. MPs found part of Jones’ wallet, and inside was a piece of ID with his name on it.

“Alan’s wife posted a news article and tagged us on Facebook. It wasn’t until I clicked on that article that I started to cry, and I called Leanne and him. said, “Are you sitting down? Go sit down because I have news for you,” Frederickson said.

The children lost contact with Jones’ children but tried to find them. They also want to speak with the bow hunter who discovered their friend’s remains and plan to visit the area where he was found next spring to honor Jones.

“Maybe (the bow hunter) was inspired to go in that direction and find this body because really… 53 years old and nobody, nobody found him,” Spencer says. “I think of the number of hunters who constantly pass through this area. It’s quite surprising that it hasn’t been found in all these years.”

There are still plenty of questions – like Jones’ death – but the Pehrson children say this week’s news puts an end to them and they like to think their parents may have been a part of the find.

“It’s a mystery that’s been part of our family forever, and we wish the entire Jones family a little bit of peace through it,” she continues. “And even though it took half a century, it’s amazing. It’s just amazing.”

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