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The Investigation

My father, John Lake, was the sports editor at Newsweek magazine. Our family lived in New Jersey; he worked in New York City. My parents were separated and had been living apart for two years, although there were two brief failed reconciliations during that time.

He often stayed with a girlfriend, Jean (his boss’ secretary), who lived in Greenwich Village, or with other friends. He traveled quite a bit for his job. He ALWAYS managed his professional affairs well. In fact, he wrote a book during this time and won a couple of awards for his work. He was well regarded by everyone at Newsweek.

Three weeks prior to his disappearance, my father suddenly agreed to a divorce, something he had been resisting prior to that. He rented a studio apartment in Greenwich Village. He wrote and called friends, informing them of the development and indicating he would have to do a lot of free-lance work to keep up with his bills.

John Lake was last seen in Manhattan by a woman, a ‘friend of a friend’, with whom he’d had dinner, on the evening of Sunday, December 10th, 1967. The weather was gray with intermittent rain, temperatures in the 30’s. He dropped her at her apartment, dismissed the cab, and walked away. He’d had several drinks at dinner. This information comes from the woman, Sandy.

(Although he was last seen the evening of December 10th, a missing persons report was not filed until December 14th. Unfortunately, the NYC Police didn’t do much, nor did the Pinkerton Detective Agency hired by Newsweek, to locate John Lake.)

He had finished the sports section for the coming week’s issue of Newsweek the previous day. He had an appointment to meet the PR guy for the Kansas City Chiefs, who were in town to play the Jets, on Saturday night. Also to attend was Pete Axthelm, a writer from Sports Illustrated, who six months later was given John Lake’s job as sports editor of Newsweek. Lake never showed for the appointment – this was extremely out of character because he was known to be scrupulously professional and serious about his job.

On the Sunday in question (the next day) he apparently called a few people to get together, but no one could. Jean, who had been away for the weekend, told me she found a list of people, mostly women who worked as researchers at Newsweek, in his handwriting. A friend of Jean’s told me he called her husband to see if he’d want to go to a football game. (A Giants’ game, she thought – both NY football teams were in town that weekend.) The husband had already gone, so Lake said, “Can I come over and talk to you for a while?” She declined, because she was busy. Apparently, he later settled for Sandy.

There was no publicity about my father’s disappearance. He vanished quietly. Family members and coworkers mostly waited to see if he would turn up. Rumors about John Lake were rampant at Newsweek, where most believed he simply walked away to a new life, and his story became a cautionary tale about the pressures of deadline journalism. Seven years later, he was declared legally dead in the state of New Jersey.

As I began my research decades later, I contacted the NYPD Missing Persons Department repeatedly in an attempt to understand what had taken place in their investigation as well as the standard procedures for a case like my dad’s. I was mostly ignored, or greeted with astonished ignorance. I finally reached a sympathetic detective who reopened the investigation, and opened my eyes to the realities of how missing and unidentified people are handled by the various agencies.

There are obviously many other details, remaining mysteries, open questions and undercurrents. In fact, there are even recent developments… Resolution will remain a matter of opinion. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and observations.

Eric Lake
November, 2015