When he was a kid, growing up in Malden, Patrick Shea was a good athlete.
Baseball and basketball came naturally to him.
He didn’t think being a good athlete made him any different than anybody else. He was just easygoing Pat Shea.
“Everybody loved him,” his brother Larry recalled.
But then as Patrick hit his mid-teens it became clear that he was, in fact, different.
“It was mental illness,” Larry Shea said, “but the diagnoses were all over the place. They’d say he was schizophrenic, then he was bipolar. He tried to hurt himself when he was younger. But by the time he was in his 40s, he came to accept his condition and became content with his life.”
Ever since the onset of his mental illness, Patrick Shea was a vulnerable man in a challenging world.
“People used to beat him up,” Larry Shea was saying. “He’d say, ‘Oh, it must have been my fault. I must have said the wrong thing.’ He’s very passive.”
Patrick Shea loved Sundays. Larry would drive in from Springfield and their sister Barbara Mackey would drive in from Nahant and they’d all meet for lunch at Kelly’s Roast Beef on Route 1 in Saugus.
Before the pandemic, they’d sit at the same table every Sunday. Patrick was a roast beef guy for years but more recently he went for the Reuben. When the pandemic hit, they still met up on Sundays, but Patrick would stay in the car with Larry and Barbara would pull alongside them in her car and they’d chat through the open windows.
They couldn’t linger too late in the afternoon because Patrick had to get to the 5:30 Mass at St. Joseph’s in Wakefield, where he did the collection.
“He loved doing it,” his sister Barbara said. “It gave him purpose.”
Sundays meant a lot not just to Patrick but to his sister and brother, because they could bring him groceries and get him out of his apartment for a few hours.
“Sunday was Patrick’s favorite day, by far, going to Kelly’s,” Larry Shea said. “That would make him so happy. His face would light up. Patrick would call me on Monday and go, ‘Are we going to Kelly’s on Sunday?’ And I’d say, ‘Yes, Patrick. We go every Sunday.’ He’d call me every couple of days, to make sure we were still on for Sunday.”
But they didn’t meet the last two Sundays because Patrick Shea has disappeared. He was last seen on May 4 on Main Street in Wakefield Square. He is 66 years old, has COPD, and can’t walk far without having to rest. But somehow he disappeared.
“Just vanished,” his brother-in-law, John Mackey, was saying. “No clues.”
A day after Patrick Shea disappeared, someone found his wallet and keys and dropped them off at the Wakefield apartment complex where he lived.
“The police think it was a Good Samaritan who just saw the address in the wallet,” Larry Shea said. “Unfortunately, the Good Samaritan didn’t leave a note so we don’t know who they are or where they found Patrick’s things.”
Mackey said Wakefield police have been terrific.
“They’ve done everything they can do,” Mackey said. “They had the State Police helicopter up, looking for him. They had the fire department boats go around both lakes in Wakefield."
Mackey said Ryan Bates, the case worker who helps Patrick and others like him who are living independently, spends his weekends scouring anywhere and everywhere for Patrick.
“Ryan’s a very decent guy,” Mackey said. “He and his girlfriend were walking through the woods, at Pine Banks Park in Melrose looking for Patrick.”
Barbara Mackey said Detective Ken Silva of the Wakefield police was organizing a 12-person search party to do a perimeter search for a half-mile radius around his apartment this week.
“Detective Silva has been so kind to us,” Barbara Mackey said. “When you hear they’re doing that kind of search, you don’t want to think he’s gone. Your mind wanders. But I still have some hope. You have to have hope.”
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.