ISHPEMING - Betsy Dymond Lawer smiles as she recalls her mother.
"She liked having a good time. She loved her grandkids. She did a lot of camping out at Green Hills, but she didn't like bugs, bears or other critters.
"She liked to play cards, canasta and cribbage, especially. And smear," Lawer said. "She had a Monday night game with her brother and her mom. Sometimes she made up games for us to play. She loved games more than she liked to watch TV. She loved to read, especially mysteries.
In this photo from 1953, when Helen Dymond was 20, she holds one of her cats. Dymond, who disappeared on June 28, 1981, loved cats, playing cards and reading, her daughter Betsy Lawer said. (Photo courtesy of Holly Letson)
"And she loved cats," she said. "If you look at photos from way back then, there are more cats than kids."
It has been almost exactly 30 years since Betsy last saw her mother, Helen Dymond. Tilden Township resident Dymond walked away from a party to go to her son's home in National Mine early in the morning hours of June 28, 1981. She was never seen again.
Elizabeth "Betsy" Lawer, one of the four children of Helen and Roy Dymond, remembers her mother with great affection.
"She never drove. It was just one of those things she never learned to do," Lawer said. "And we always spent Christmas at my grandma's, her mom's. Even after Mom disappeared, we did Christmas at Grandma's for years. When Grandma didn't cook any more, we did the cooking."
Helen Dymond wasn't a huge fan of sports, save for one.
"My mom loved to watch baseball," Lawer said. "She liked to go watch my Uncle Jack Stone (Helen's brother) play baseball and fast-pitch softball. I grew up going to his games with her. And then she liked to go watch my brother play Little League and me and one of my sisters play softball.
"She'd probably still be watching softball to this day."
In fact, softball factors in to Lawer's recollection of her last day with her mom, the final day of Helen's life with her family.
"It was a Saturday," Lawer said. "We went to a picnic up at the flats in National Mine, then we all went to the club."
In between the picnic and the party, Betsy Lawer, her husband, Terry, and her mother took a trip to Ishpeming proper.
"We went to the Ishpeming playgrounds for my brother's ballgame," she said. "Then we went back to the picnic before going to the club."
The club was the Tilden Township Club, a private social gathering spot for township residents and invited guests. It became the final place Helen Dymond was known to have been seen.
"My husband and I were tired that night," Lawer recalled. "So we wanted to go get a pizza, then go home. My Dad refused. We told him we were buying, but he was retired and really careful about money and very proud, too, so we left my parents at the club."
A few hours later, some time after Terry Lawer had brought the babysitter who had watched their children home, the Lawers' phone rang.
"It was my dad. He was looking for my mom. He said they'd gotten into a (verbal) fight and he had left her at the club," Lawer said. "He said when he left, she was talking to (a friend). I told him I'd call (the friend) in the morning and told him to go to bed."
That next morning, a Sunday, Betsy called her dad first to see if Helen had returned home.
"I made a few phone calls after that but she hadn't left with any of those people. I had this dreadful feeling," she said. "I wondered where she could be."
Lawer checked with her brother, who lived a short walk from the club where the party took place.Her mother had said she would walk to his house when she was ready to leave the party. She wasn't there.
Lawer also checked with her sisters and her mother's sister, all of whom lived in Salisbury Location, not a great distance from the club, either.
"Finally, I called my grandma. That was hard," she said. "I had to tell her Mom was missing. By 1 or 2 in the afternoon, I knew something was seriously wrong. Mom would have called one of us kids if not Dad.
"My husband took a ride through National Mine with his friend, Sammy Champion, and they walked a stretch of road there," she said.
As the hours ticked away, Betsy grew more frantic with worry.
"There was a storm that Sunday night and I was afraid the phones were going to go out. They did a lot back then," she said. "So I didn't wait 24 hours to call the cops. I called maybe 22 hours after she had gone missing."
When the Dymond family first contacted police, they were told in all probability, Helen didn't want to be found or had decided to leave the area.
"I remember they said it was 'deemed not necessary' to start a search."
So the family kept looking on its own, with the help of friends and neighbors. Lawer's husband, Terry, took a bold step.
"He knew a friend who had a plane so he went up and did an aerial search," Betsy Lawer recalled.
Finally, on Tuesday, authorities released word to local media that Helen Dymond was missing. The Mining Journal ran a brief item that day, with the headline "Disapperance investigated."
"It was on one of the radio stations that there was going to be another search that night," she said. "When we had the search that evening, the cops rode alongside while people looked."
On Wednesday: What happened next in the search for Helen Dymond.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.