WYOMING — Just come home.
Wherever Charles Stark is, those are the words the missing borough man’s wife wants him to hear and heed.
Known as Chuck to friends and family, the husband, father and talented chef left his Seventh Street home for a bike ride on Labor Day night. The 51-year-old has not been seen since, and an intense days-long search for him concluded Friday, apparently fruitless.
“Nothing has been found,” Michelle Stark said during a conversation in her living room Friday afternoon.
Not the new, rust colored 10-speed bike Stark was riding. Not the helmet he was wearing when he left home.
“There’s still no indication where the gentleman might be,” Wyoming Mayor Bob Boyer told the Times Leader on Friday when asked about the status of search efforts, which at one point included more than 40 people from various agencies, on land and water.
“I wish I had some better news to report.”
The search may be over, but borough police will continue their investigation, the mayor said.
At the same time, Boyer acknowledged that Stark could now be far from home.
“The police really don’t believe he is within the Borough of Wyoming,” the mayor said.
Chef to healthcare
Who is Chuck Stark?
Look through Facebook posts and old news clippings, and a much happier story emerges about the 51-year-old man at the center of this missing person case.
According to his Facebook page, Stark is a 1984 Tunkhannock High School graduate who works at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center, where his wife said he is a certified nurse assistant.
William Klaips, spokesman for the VA, said he could not comment on any ongoing investigation involving employees.
But other sources still stand as testimony to who Stark is.
In September 2011, a Times Leader photo caption described Stark as a recent graduate of the certified nurse assistant training program at United Methodist Homes’ Wesley Village Campus. Stark is seen in the center, holding a cake he made to mark the occasion: It’s shaped like a catheter bag, complete with tubing.
That creativity seems to be one of Stark’s hallmarks.
Stark appeared in other news items in chef’s gear, including a March 2011 Sunday Dispatch story describing his visit with pre-schoolers at Cookie Corner, where Stark talked about good nutrition.
In that piece, Stark was described as a sub-contracted stage manager for the FOOD Network, working with Fox Network chefs from Philadelphia to Arizona.
Another Sunday Dispatch Story in years past showed Stark with his two young daughters, posing beside a 30-pound coconut cream Easter egg, accompanied by a 1974 photo of an 11-year-old Stark beside a similar confection.
“He kind of switched life tracks,” Michelle Stark said of her husband’s transition to the healthcare field.
Stark’s life also included what his wife of a quarter century called periodic “exercise binges.”
“He would ask us to walk with him,” Michelle Stark said.
Sometimes she and their two daughters would accompany Stark on his walks, but not always.
“He would decide to walk for miles,” she added.
That interest in lengthy exercise regimes recently took the form of a new bike. While Stark had ridden in the past, his wife said, it had been some time since he was on two wheels.
On Labor Day night, after the family went for a walk with their dog, Stark decided to go out on his bike, his wife said.
According to police, Stark was last seen at his home at about 8 p.m. on Monday.
On Tuesday night, police sent out word to the media that Stark was missing.
By early Wednesday, his absence had touched off a large multi-agency search effort, which covered the borough and the neighboring Susquehanna River.
“It was a very thorough search,” Boyer said.
By Friday afternoon, as Boyer explained, officials concluded that the area had been covered, and wherever Stark is, it isn’t Wyoming.
“But we’re not giving up here,” Boyer said, describing how police have had Stark’s name and information entered into a national database of missing persons.
Michelle Stark offered thanks to local law enforcement for their work.
“The Wyoming police are phenomenal,” she said, praising borough officers for their diligence and concern.
“I can’t say enough about them.”
To her husband, wherever he is, she reiterated the message.
“We want you home, no matter what. If you’re seeing this, just come home.”
Reach Roger DuPuis at 570-991-6113 or on Twitter @rogerdupuis2.