KINGSTON – While driving to her job as a nurse in the mornings, Elaine Yerashunas Kwashnik sometimes will spot someone who resembles her missing son.
His height, what he's wearing – something catches her eye and gets her thinking it could be him.
I'll go around the block just to make sure it's not him, she said last week.
Joseph Kostak disappeared Easter Monday 2011, only one day after he told his mother he had been robbed. He didn't leave a note, say goodbye or take any of his belongings from his mother's house on Penn Street. All his clothes are there, she said.
The holidays passed. So did his 42nd birthday on Dec. 14, 2012. Yerashunas Kwashnik continues to cling to the hope Kostak is alive, or that someone can provide a snippet of information about his disappearance.
She's not yet prepared to accept that something bad might have happened to him, that he could be dead.
I go back and forth, said Yerashunas Kwashnik, 62.
If he was alive, she said, I don't think he would do this to us.
She filed a missing persons report with Kingston police and put his information on a missing person website: www.findthemissing.org. There's also a $1,000 reward for information that can lead to his whereabouts.
Kostak, the oldest boy and one of six children, led a troubled life of substance abuse and depression, family members said. He graduated from King's College, where he studied accounting. He served in the U.S. Army in Georgia, married and had three children.
His ex-wife Cassandra Hager said that, given Kostak's connections to his family and the area, it was not like him to simply vanish. This behavior is not within his character, Hager said.
Yerashunas Kwashnik recalled times when her son was gone for a few days or a week. But he always would return.
Kostak stayed in area Salvation Army shelters a few times, leading Yerashunas Kwashnik to contact the organization to ask whether he showed up at any of its shelters across the country. There was no paper trail at all, they told me, she said.
His older sister, Susan Esquirell of Chester Springs, described Kostak as very intelligent, but someone who made one poor choice after another. Joey and I were very close growing up, Esquirell, 44, said.
But the brother she saw months before he went missing was almost unrecognizable.
He was tortured, Esquirell said.
She grasped for answers about why Kostak left no trace and couldn't rule out that he was no longer alive. It's like he dropped off the face of the earth, Esquirell said.
She, too, hoped someone might come forward with information that would answer the family's questions.
If you knew one way or the other, said Esquirell, you could at least live with that.