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WOODLAND – It’s a safe guess that the majority of Roanoke-Chowan area residents spent last Thursday discussing the cold winter weather, the pending three-day holiday weekend, or the NFL play-offs.

However, it’s an equally safe guess that none of those thoughts crossed the mind of William “Buddy” Powell. Rather, the Woodland man spent Jan. 11 thinking about what happened to his “baby sister.”

Fifty-five years have passed since the last time anyone in his family saw Phyllis Lorrain Powell.

Phyllis was five-years-old on Jan. 11, 1963. She and her older sister, Joyce Powell Parker, who now resides in Ahoskie, were washing clothes at the home of a Woodland neighbor, Molly Lassiter, when little Phyllis asked her older sibling for permission to go outside and play at around 12 noon that fateful day in the area of NC 35 and Ashe Street. She was never seen again.

Despite a massive search on the ground and in the air involving over 200 individuals, there were no clues discovered on the little girl’s whereabouts, other than a set of small footprints found in an area bordered by a thick woods about one mile from where she went missing.

Each Jan. 11, the Powell family gathers at a small memorial erected in Phyllis’s memory in Woodland. That day brings back painful memories.

“We still want to know what happened to our little sister,” Buddy Powell said last week. “All we want is the truth.”

“The street we lived on back then was where we all knew everyone by their name,” said Parker. “As a matter of fact, everyone living on that street back then was either members of our family or were close friends with our family. Phyllis would have never gotten in a car or went anywhere with a stranger, not unless she was forced to do so.”

Powell added that there wasn’t much traffic on Ashe Street back in 1963, simply due to the fact there were only two men who lived on that street who owned an automobile.

“Most of the men who lived there would walk to work at the casket companies or the basket mill that operated back then in Woodland and George,” he recalled.

Despite the passage of 55 years, Powell stressed that he has not given up hope that an answer will come in regards to his sister’s disappearance.

“If we give up, we lose hope, and that goes for all those families of missing loved ones,” he noted. “When praises go up, blessings come down. Solving just one missing person’s case is the beginning, not the end for others that are still missing.

“I pray daily for missing people and their families. All I ask is that people will do the same for my family,” Powell concluded.

There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the whereabouts of Phyllis Powell. That information can be shared anonymously by calling the Northampton County Sheriff’s Office at 252-534-2611. Or you can contact the CUE Center For Missing Persons at (910) 343-1131 or their 24 Hour Line at (910) 232-1687. Tipsters can remain anonymous.

The Powell case has attracted national and international attention over the years.

Betty Brown of Winston-Salem contacted the Powell family about using advanced technology to perform another ground search of the area around where Phyllis went missing.

Five years ago, on the 50th anniversary of Phyllis’s disappearance, Diana Trepkov of Canada, a Certified Forensic Artist through the International Association for Identification, became involved in the case. Based upon recollections by the family (there were no known photos of young Phyllis), Trepkov penned a likeness of Powell at age 5 and then an age progression likeness at age 55. Those two drawings were used on flyers and billboards.

In October of 2013, Community United Effort (CUE) Center for Missing Persons officials met with members of the Powell-Vinson family in Woodland at the Phyllis Powell Memorial Garden to share their memories and bring renewed attention that will hopefully shine new light on this missing person’s cold case. That event was part of the CUE’s annual “On the Road to Remember Tour.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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