Richard Moreau lived an active life in retirement, and on Aug. 26 set off from his North Attleborough home on his bicycle to fulfill a dream of riding all the way to Florida to visit relatives.
But the 66-year-old grandfather’s lifelong goal of completing the 1,300-mile bike trip was shattered Wednesday afternoon, when police in North Carolina found his lifeless body in a tent in a wooded area, days after he went missing.
No one had disturbed his campsite or removed any of his belongings, leading investigators to believe Moreau died of natural causes, his family said Wednesday night.
“It looked like he was sleeping, and he had passed,” Moreau’s stepdaughter, Kelly Erskine, 38, of Boston, said in a phone interview.
She said Moreau, a father of four and grandfather of six, was a “very fit man,” and his family had no concerns about him embarking on the trip.
“He was wonderful,” Erskine said. “He did everything with [his grandchildren]. . . . They called him pops. He was a highlight of their lives. He was the guy that they did cool and fun things with.”
For the first couple weeks of the trip, everything went according to plan, as Moreau checked in with his family every day as he progressed along the route.
But relatives became concerned when they did not hear from him after his final contact on Sept. 17, his family said in a Facebook posting.
He was last seen that night leaving a Verizon store in Knightdale, N.C., and relatives later filed a missing persons report with local authorities, as his son Ryan rushed to the area to assist in the search. Volunteers also joined the effort.
Moreau’s family remained hopeful until Wednesday when, authorities said, Knightdale, N.C., police discovered his body in his tent, near US Highway 264 Alternate, just west of the town of Middlesex, N.C.
In a statement, the town of Knightdale said investigators tracked Moreau’s cellphone location near Middlesex and “spent much of Wednesday searching the rural area and discovered his body and belongings in a shady spot not far from the road.”
The town said Moreau appears to have died from natural causes, but officials did not elaborate.
“Our hearts to go out to this family who has worked so hard to find their loved one,” said Knightdale Police Captain Jacqui Boykin in the statement. “We can’t thank them enough for being accessible and doing everything they could to help.”
Moreau’s stepdaughter Erskine said he had retired from his job at XTRA Lease, a provider of over-the-road trailers for rent, and she described him as an avid cyclist.
“He enjoyed going out and doing things at his own pace,” she said. “He loved riding his bike, that’s for sure.”
He also cared deeply for his wife Kerry Moreau, who had been with him for nearly 30 years and survives him, Erskine said.
“They were very, very in love,” she said.
Erskine also posted a remembrance of her stepfather in a Facebook message on Wednesday night, writing above photographs of a smiling Moreau holding his grandchildren. Other pictures showed Moreau on his bicycle, and one appeared to be a selfie that he had taken from inside a tent.
“Our hearts are heavy,” Erskine wrote. “Richard was one of the greatest people anyone could wish to know. He leaves behind a loving wife, son, three stepdaughters and six grandchildren that will miss him dearly. On behalf of the family I would like to thank everyone for your concern, compassion and kindness during the search. Cherish your families.”