Police seek help in finding missing Eagle River man

Michelle Theriault Boots

Police are asking for the public's help in finding a missing Eagle River man.

Neighbors of Stephen Gingrich called police Saturday to let them know the 58-year-old hadn't been seen for two weeks, the Anchorage Police Department said in a release.

"Neighbors believe this to be atypical of Mr. Gingrich and have advised that he may be mentally vulnerable," the release said.

Gingrich, known as "Stef" to his friends, is known in progressive political circles and in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Anchorage as a longtime, stalwart volunteer.

"He is one of the most soft-spoken, gentle and generous people," said Jaime Rodriguez, a friend since the 1980s who owns Alpine Garden Nursery in Palmer.

Originally from Florida, Gingrich lives in a hand-hewn house on Hiland Road and spends time at an inherited homestead property in the far reaches of Eagle River's South Fork Valley, according to Rodriguez.

An avid hiker whom friends describe as a skilled outdoorsman and botany expert, Gingrich is single and doesn't have close family members living in state.

Gingrich has for decades devoted his time to Democratic political causes and LGBT activism.

He was known for making flags and buttons for people to wear at events and protests, said Mel Green, a longtime LGBT activist in Anchorage. He helped build floats for the annual PrideFest parade.

Last year, he gave Green a car -- an old Subaru she still drives today.

Earlier this year Gingrich had a falling out with members of one of the LGBT organizations he was involved with, friends said.

"I think he was hurt or maybe a little bitter about the situation," Rodriguez said.

But Rodriguez doesn't think he was despondent.

"He was working too hard on his cabin and house and garden for me to characterize any of his behavior as even remotely depressed."

Word that Gingrich is missing spread quickly through his friend circles on Facebook, Rodriguez said.

"My first gut response is that I hope he got a permanent fund dividend ticket and went to Florida or something," he said. "I hope he didn't get stuck up at his cabin and hurt himself."

Police searched the area of Gingrich's Eagle River home and cabin Sunday and found nothing, said Dani Myren, an Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman.

Gingrich is described as 6 feet tall and 175 pounds with long sandy-blonde hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call the APD at 786-8900.

"He's got a lot of people really worried about him," Green said.

Reach Michelle Theriault Boots at mtheriault@adn.com or 257-4344.