VANISHED: Woman's search for 'love of her life'
FOR years Charlene Holder has been returning to Coffs Harbour in a desperate search for information about her boyfriend who disappeared on the day he proposed to her more than 30 years ago.
Now in her mid-50s and living in Sydney, Charlene (better known as Charlie) was just a troubled teenager when she met Mark at the Park Beach Plaza food hall in the early 80s.
"I grew up in Grafton with a mother who was an abusive alcoholic. I ran away from home and when I came back my mother's boyfriend didn't want me around so she put me in a refuge at the age of 16."
That was when she met and fell in love with Mark who was 18 at the time and living with a group of friends at a block of flats in York Street.
Before moving to York Street Charlie says he lived at the Bananacoast Caravan Park with the same three friends.
He too was a runaway, having grown up in Albury according to what he told Charlie.
"Straight away I fell for him. He was my tall, dark, handsome brown-eyed man."
They started dating and she says they were inseparable for many months until one day he asked her to marry him.
Mark asked Charlie's mother for permission and they planned to get married and build a future together.
But the day he proposed was also the last time she saw him. Mark told her he was going for a motorbike ride but he never returned.
She went back to the block of flats in York Street several times to ask if his friends had seen him but she got the impression they weren't being entirely truthful and because Mark was estranged from his family there were no relatives for her to contact.
Less than a month later she learnt she was pregnant and despite pressure to terminate she gave birth to a son Adrian who is now in his mid-30s.
Over the years she has posted on various reconnection sites including the Facebook site 'Reconnect. FREE' and travelled back to the region to reconnect with old friends and find out what happened to Mark.
In recent years she has become more determined to find out what happened in order to have closure for her son Adrian who is now a father of two himself.
On a recent visit to Coffs Harbour she brought her grandchildren Zac and Nate with her.
"Zac is my oldest grandson and the little one is Nate - Nate has Mark's eyes."
While some friends have told her Mark simply ran away and didn't want to be found she doesn't believe that explanation for one second.
"I come to a dead end and get disappointed, then I stop searching for a while, but then I start up again."
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