Today marks 30 years since 17-year-old Joan “Joanie” Hall got out of a friend’s car to enter a mini-mart, where she planned to buy a soda and walk to a nearby grade school.
She has not been seen since.
It was September 30, 1983; a time when 2,000 people did not disappear each day; the AMBER Alert system had not yet been developed, and teenagers didn’t just “vanish” into thin air — at least, not in Warrenton — and not Joanie Hall.
With less than 5,000 people, Warrenton, OR, is settled in the northern tip of the state, bordering the Pacific Ocean. Kids could be kids, and Joanie — like many others — roamed freely throughout the small town without concern. After buying that soft drink, Joanie planned to walk approximately one-half mile to Warrenton Grade School — where her aunt was a teacher — to help with after-school tutoring.
So when Joanie suddenly vanished, she was not assumed a runaway, and her disappearance became news that spread through the region.
Twelve miles south of Warrenton in Seaside, Oregon, another teenager was going about her day when she overheard a group of girls talking about Joanie Hall’s disappearance.
That conversation led me to believe they were involved, or at least knew more,” Dena Rush said.
And so it began: a thirty-year search for a missing girl she’d never met.
Dena Rush was just a teen herself when Joanie Hall disappeared, and the two had never crossed paths. But it was because of that conversation — and a feeling she couldn’t explain — that Dena reached out to Joanie’s family and offered her assistance.
Thirty years later, she is still working to find Joanie, to find the person or persons responsible for her disappearance, and to bury her next to her parents, who are now deceased.
There are not many details surrounding Joanie’s disappearance, but it is rumored she may have gotten into a dark-colored truck with two young men. Hall, an Explorer Scout for the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Department, would most likely not have entered the vehicle of someone unknown to her.
In a 2008 plea to the residents of Clatsop County, Dena asked for the following assistance from those in and around the area:
I am asking people who live in Clatsop Co, Oregon or people who will be visiting Clatsop County, to please be vigilant. Particularly if you are hiking, camping, hinting or fishing in Clatsop County.”
Tonight, Joanie’s loved ones will gather for a memorial service to remember, honor, and continue their fight to seek answers, justice, and closure for Joanie.
At the time of her disappearance, Joan Leigh Hall was 17 years’ old, approximately 5’4″ – 5’5″ tall, weighing around 120 pounds. She has brown hair with sun-lightened streaks and blue eyes. She was wearing a green hooded sweatshirt, jeans, and a blue jacket, and was carrying a blue-and-white backpack and a brown purse. Her ears are pierced, but it is unknown if she was wearing earrings at the time of her disappearance.
If we all work together we can find this child & make sure that Joanie Hall receives justice,” Dena Rush said. “I never met Joanie Hall in person; but nevertheless her destiny is somehow linked to my own. She has become part of me. A part of my journey in this life. As such, she is “family” to me now. And I will not stop until she is found & receives justice.”
In 2006, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released age-progression photos of what Joanie Hall would now look like, in her forties. Those photos may be viewed in the slideshow above.
Anyone with information regarding the disappearance or whereabouts of Joan “Joanie” Hall is asked to contact Detective Hulon of the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Department at (503)325-8635. Refer to case number 83-0932.
A FaceBook page with updates regarding the search efforts for Joan Hall may be found here.