Family's 6-year search for missing relative ends with news of Elgin memorial service

Irene Donovan was on an early morning grocery trip when she heard the end of a radio story about a man in Elgin who was laid to rest Tuesday.

The report said the funeral home didn't find any of his family or friends and had invited the public to attend the visitation.

The man was Stephen Myerson - the same name as Donovan's cousin whom she and her family had been seeking for six years.

"The age was right, but I didn't want to jump to conclusions," said Donovan, who lives in Winthrop Harbor.

She called the radio station and they filled her in on the part of the story she missed and that Myerson, 72, was a Vietnam veteran who served in the Marine Corps. He died Sept. 11 at the Citadel Care Center in Elgin.

Donovan knew it was him.

The radio station got the story from The Associated Press. She called the AP national office, which sent her to the Chicago bureau, which told her it was a Daily Herald story and gave her a phone number. She called at 7:24 a.m.

"I'm Irene Donovan. I'm Steve Myerson's cousin," she said. "You wrote about him yesterday."

Donovan said she and family members had been out of touch and searching for him. Myerson had a falling out with the family after becoming estranged from his wife and two children, she said.

"He was kind of a traveler, didn't want to stick in one place for too long," she said.

"It got rough about six years ago," Donovan said. His mother urged him to get in touch with his kids, Donovan said, but Myerson eventually "didn't want to hear it anymore" and just drifted away from everyone.

In the past two years, Donovan stepped up her search after his twin sister and his son died within months.

"I searched everything I could on the internet. I even had a friend who is a former police chief try to help," she said.

"All the bridges went to nowhere. He didn't want to be found."

A representative from Laird Funeral Home in Elgin, which donated services to honor the veteran, said Myerson told the people at Citadel that he had no family.

Myerson's mother, Lorraine Armonda, lives in a nursing home in Lake Geneva. She doesn't know about Myerson's death.

"I don't want to tell her because I can't be there with her, and this is going to hit her hard," Donovan said. She told Myerson's brothers, Ralph and John, who will decide the best way to tell their mom. She can't have visitors at the home because of the pandemic.

For Donovan, the whirlwind morning was a lot to take.

"It's mixed emotions," she said. "I'm happy there's some closure, but my aunt (Steve's mother) has been beside herself about him. She worries about him all the time."

"I just wish I could be there to hold her when she finds out."

Myerson is survived by his mother, two brothers, his daughter Kristen and several cousins, nieces and nephews. Donovan said they'll probably have a service or visit his grave at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood when the situation with the pandemic allows.

'It's heartbreaking': Vietnam veteran with no family, friends honored in Elgin

This photo of Stephen A. Myerson was taken in the 1970s. COURTESY OF IRENE DONOVAN
  Steve Mosias, left, of Palatine and Jim Bethke of Elgin were among those who came to pay their respects to Marine Corps and Vietnam veteran Stephen Alan Myerson at Laird Funeral Home in Elgin Tuesday. Rick West/
  Randall Rakowski of Elgin kneels to pay his respects for fellow Marine Corps veteran Stephen Alan Myerson at Laird Funeral Home in Elgin Tuesday. Myerson had no known family when he died Sept. 11 at the Citadel Care Center in Elgin, but now the family knows. Rick West/
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