Ben Gano

Ben Gano, 88, of Rainier was last seen May 30 leaving his brother's home in Colville, Wash.

Courtesy photo

The body of a missing 88-year-old Rainier man was found Monday near the town of Starbuck in Eastern Washington.

Family members and law enforcement agencies had been searching for Shirley “Ben” Gano since he vanished May 30 after visiting his brother in Colville, Wash. An extensive 14-day search showed Gano had stopped in Walla Walla, Starbuck and the Tri-Cities on his way back home to Rainier.

The Columbia County (Washington) Coroner’s Office confirmed Gano’s death Tuesday.

“He was a great father, a great husband, a longtime resident of Rainier and well respected, highly liked in the town,” said Ben Gano’s son, Mike Gano, who is originally from Rainier but now lives in Bellevue.

Ben Gano frequently made trips to visit his brother in Eastern Washington and played golf several times a week in Kelso with friends and fellow paper mill retirees.

Gano’s blue BMW X5 was found by authorities Sunday off of a power-line access road, accessible only through private property in a rural area, reported The Times of Waitsburg, Wash.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office was not available for comment Tuesday.

County Coroner Rea Culwell confirmed Gano’s vehicle was found in a steep area off the road.

Gano’s body was found about 300 feet away from his vehicle. He had not suffered any collision-related injuries, Culwell said.

The manner of death is still undetermined. An autopsy is scheduled for next week.

The family hopes to hold a memorial service in Rainier within the next three weeks, though no specific arrangements have been made yet, according to family members.

“He was a very caring person with a big heart and one of the mentally and physically strongest people I know, just in terms of will power and energy,” Mike Gano said.

The Rainier native retired from the Wauna paper mill about 25 years ago. His wife Shirley died two years ago, leaving him with four adult children and seven grandchildren.

After his wife passed away, he often visited with his longtime neighbor, Bobby Jo Brusco-Harding. They would watch football together or just chat over sodas.

“We’d sit on the porch and we’d solve a lot of world of problems,” said Brusco-Harding, 63. When her son was growing up, “he would actually run over to Ben’s house, knock on the door, and ask if Ben would come out and play, and Ben did. … They would play squirt gun, sword fight, hide and seek.”

“He was a gentleman. … He had a good sense of humor and obviously loved his family,” she said.

Contact Daily News reporter Marissa Luck at 360-577-2539 or mluck@tdn.com.

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