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Bergenfield man who went missing dies, son writes tribute

Photo Credit: Courtesy Eric Wicklund

UPDATE: An 81-year-old Bergenfield man found in a neighbor’s yard nearly four days after he went missing died last night, which brought an online tribute from his son today that moved many to tears.

“The suffering that he had to endure was complicated and he was not able to recover,” a close family friend of Donald Wicklund told CLIFFVIEW PILOT earlier today.

“Donny” Wicklund, who had Alzheimer’s disease, was “conscious and verbal,” with wounds that police described as superficial, when he was found last Sunday, four days after he went for an evening walk and didn’t return. He was taken to a local hospital by the Bergenfield Volunteer Ambulance Corp.

His son, Eric (above, left), was extremely concerned about his father’s prospects but remained positive. “He is in very rough shape, and dehydrated, but his heart rate is good,” he wrote at the time. “He survived 4 days out on his own, and hurt.”

Today, the younger Wicklund published a tribute to his father on Facebook, some of which is excerpted below:

“We will never know exactly what happened those long 4 days, but we do know he was hurt and tried to get home. He was a very tough man, and he showed it….

“[M]any people liked him for his kindness and friendly personality,” Erick Wicklund wrote. “We spent a lot of time together, and I learned a lot from him. He taught me everything he knew about installing garage doors, construction, and many other things through the years. I always watched and learned from him.

“He was always good to people, and would go the extra mile to make sure his work was perfect. He always told me to take pride in my work, and people will respect you for it. I am successful with my garage door business today, and that is mostly because of the things he taught me.

“Whenever I needed him, he would be there. Many times on jobs, if I needed something, he would bring it to me, or help me when I first started off. He often would help me when I first bought my house, no matter what I needed, and even on 5 minutes notice. He would be there. I relied on him a lot, and he was always there for me.

“I’m glad I told him how thankful I was for all of his help, not on his death bed, but many times. I know he knew that I loved him, and was thankful for him. He was my father, and my buddy. I’m very thankful that I had him as a father, and even more thankful that he knew it.

“I know [Alzheimer’s] was hard on him, and it broke my heart to try and explain that to him. I know he didn’t understand, but I did my best to explain it to him.

“Losing him this was has been very tough on everyone who knew him. I loved my father very much when he was here, and will miss him forever.”

Born in Minneapolis, Donald Wicklund served as an Air Force mechanic in the Korean War. He moved to Bergenfield 45 years ago and was married a year later. He worked as an office manager at R&K Mockler Overhead Doors in Palisades Park for 55 years and continued working after retiring, helping the younger Wickland establish his own company.

He leaves his wife, Connie, and son, three other children and five grandchildren.

Visiting hours are scheduled from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Thursday at Riewerts Memorial Home in Bergenfield. A funeral service is scheduled at the funeral home at 10 a.m. Friday, with interment in George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus.

Eric Wicklund thanked “every single person” who participated in the search for his father — from the emergency responders to the friends and family who posted fliers or online alerts.

“You gave us the chance to see him again ,and to say goodbye,” he said.

PHOTO: Courtesy Eric Wicklund

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