Barbara Klita named her son, Fryderyk, after the famous Polish composer Fryderyk Chopin. It is a piece of her home country that she wanted to give to her Italian born son.
But Fryderyk, known to many as Fred, chose his last name. After he finished high school, he legally changed his last name from Veschi to Frontier, an homage to his love for his adopted home state, Alaska.
A distinct personality accompanied his distinct name.
Anyone who remembers him during his attendance at UAA in the late 1990s describes him as a memorable character — a personable worker at The Northern Light and KRUA.
So when he went missing in 2003, his name was recognized by a host of people.
At the time of his disappearance, Frontier had left Anchorage and was living in Seattle when he got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach English in Taiwan.
He arrived in Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, May 20. He was last heard from when he left a message on his girlfriend’s answering machine May 23, describing the beautiful mountains and scenery in the country.
His mother said when she first heard the news of the disappearance, she thought, “I can’t believe this because he was always a lot of energy and healthy.”
The slightly build woman is 64 years old now. Her once-blonde hair is graying and cropped short. She looks like she has weathered a storm of worry from her son’s disappearance. But she is spirited woman whose blue eyes sparkle when she talks about her adventure-loving son.
“He was always adventure,” Klita said through a thick Polish accent, recounting his love for mountain climbing and hiking in Alaska.
That’s why the idea that he got lost in tourist-heavy Taroko National Park doesn’t sit well with her.
“He likes this kind of stuff, but he was too smart to get lost,” she said.
His passport, ID and credit cards were missing from his possessions, which also call that theory into question.
Frontier will have been missing for 10 years May 23.
In honor of this decade-long absence, Klita will be going back to Taiwan for the fourth time to look for her son.
She said the absolute best thing that could happen on her trip is that she finds her son and brings him home.
Klita likens her son’s disappearance to the highly publicized case of the three women held captive for 10 years in Cleveland, Ohio.
She says if those women could be found 10 years after their disappearance, so can her son.
But she is not oblivious to the alternate scenario. She said the absolute worst that could happen is she finds out he was killed for his passport.
Either way, she said, “A mother never gives up…I like to know the truth. The truth set me free.”
The first time she went to Taiwan to collect his belongings and investigate his death, there were indications that things might not have happened the way the police and park rangers suggest.
For instance, a man and woman, both dressed in suits, offered to help her find her son. But she quickly noticed that the pair were out of place in the Catholic Hostel where she collected Frontier’s things. She said they seemed more interested in why she was looking for him, instead of saying how they knew him or who they were.
She suspects they might have been involved with his disappearance.
Another suspicion she has is rooted from the disappearance and reappearance of Frontier’s belongings in the hostel where he stayed.
Items initially missing from his room were mysteriously returned after Frontier was reported missing.
And in the last photo ever taken of Frontier, he was at the national park and leaning on a car while wearing a dark blue T-shirt and red Marines fanny pack.
She said if he did get lost in the park, she wonders how those clothes and the empty fanny pack were in his room at the hostel.
She also wonders whose car he was leaning on in the photo if he had only been in the country about three days and didn’t know anybody yet.
“No passport — no passport and no Fred,” Klita said about what she found in his belongings.
Yet foul play has never been confirmed in Frontier’s disappearance.
While Klita feels that authorities and locals were generally helpful in her previous visits to Taiwan, she suspects that people were not completely forthcoming with her.
She doesn’t necessarily think people maliciously withheld information from her, but she wonders if there were local problems or customs people were following to spare her feelings about what happened to her son.
“After 10 years,” she said, “the time is long enough to tell me the truth.”
Klita will be in Taiwan May 29- June 17 and will be working with the local police and park rangers to try to find new leads about the whereabouts of her son.