In 1986, Rick Hazelton disappeared without a trace from his home in Glen Falls, New York. His family eventually had him legally declared dead, but not everybody believed he had died.
His childhood friend, Brian Pincheon, never gave up hope, and while trying to find information about his friend, he stumbled across a sketch that looked similar to Hazelton. With the help of a detective from Nashville, Tennessee, they managed to locate Hazelton, who has been living with his wife and children in Oregon for the past 20 years.
"One day, I got a letter in the mail that said, ‘You’re being investigated in a missing persons report,’ and I thought, 'That can’t be right. I’m not missing. This has gotta be a mistake,’” Hazelton said.
Hazelton then called his old friend, and the two spoke for hours, reminiscing about their childhood. He explained that he left New York and traveled the country before ending up in Oregon, where he started a family of his own.
"I didn’t think anybody really cared, so I just made my own life and did it,” Hazelton said. “When I called them, they were like, 'Oh, you’re like back from the dead!’”
Hazelton said he went to New York City, where he tried to be a street performer. When that didn't pan out, he went to Miami, where he planned to stay with a relative. He wasn't in Miami long and booked a cheap flight Colorado where he worked odd jobs to make a living and hitchhiked his way west.
"After that, I’d raised a family and all that and lived life, and then, we moved to Oregon. I’ve been there for 20 years,” he said.
After reconnecting with Pincheon, he decided to return home to catch up with his family and other friends. He plans to stay in the area through Thanksgiving.
"We’ve all changed a little bit, so we’re older now. We’ve got kids and families and all that, so it’s like getting to know everyone again,” Hazelton said.
Pincheon says he is glad that he kept looking for his friend and after 33 years, was able to finally locate him.
"It’s so heartwarming to feel the love that we have here today for each other and how much we missed each other,” Pincheon said. “If you love somebody, don’t ever give up on them. If you don’t have an answer, keep going until you can find out what actually happened.”