Wife of Woodbridge man David Wood who went missing in French Alps reflects on year without her ‘eccentric’ husband
- Credit: Archant
The wife of a Woodbridge man who went missing while walking in the French Alps almost one year ago says her loss never gets easier – but she gets stronger.
Val Armstrong and sons Danny, 33, and Richard, 30, have returned to their holiday home in Marie in the Tinnee Valley region for the first time since David Wood, 61, disappeared in August 2016.
Mrs Armstrong said although she has now come to realise she will never see her husband again, it is difficult for the family to grieve not knowing what happened to him.
“We cannot mourn, I cannot move on,” she said.
“I know he is no longer alive, I have come to realise that, but I want to know what happened.
“I want to be able to have a celebration of his life and do all those things you go through to deal with grief.
“He shouldn’t be gone, he was only 61 for goodness sake.
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“It just feels so wrong.
“Does it get easier? No. I think I have got stronger, I have found strategies to deal with it.
“I have got to be strong, I have no choice. I have got to be strong for my sons and for myself.”
Mrs Armstong said David was hugely popular in Woodbridge and Marie – a larger-than-life character who brought a smile to everyone he met.
She said: “Everybody knew Dave in Woodbridge, riding through the town in his sandals in the rain. He was Woodbridge and Marie’s eccentric.”
Mr Wood, a computer engineer, was last seen on August 2 last year.
Although a fit and healthy man, in the weeks leading up to his disappearance, he had discovered he had raised blood pressure so set about getting fit, choosing to go on long walks every day rather than taking medication.
He had gone off on one of his walks on the day he went missing and was last seen by a local couple who had spotted him walking in the opposite direction from the family’s home in a “confused state”.
Large scale searches of the mountains took place in the weeks following, but no trace of Mr Wood has ever been found.
Mrs Armstrong, an artist and painter, said the countryside in the French Alps becomes a wilderness once off the beaten track, and that two people have subsequently gone missing in the area.
“There’s a possibility that something happened to him,” she said.
“It could have been dehydration, it could have been the sun because he was walking at midday in this temperature.
“The two people who have gone missing, one was November, the other one this year.
“The man who went missing in November was found dead; the woman who went missing this year has not been found.
“It illustrates what these mountains can be like.”
Today, villagers in Marie are getting together for a ceremony at the mayor’s office to celebrate the marriage in May of Mr Woods’ son Danny to his wife Josie, part of the healing process for the family.
This is the first time the family have returned to their holiday home, an experience Mrs Armstrong says has been very difficult.
“I’m not planning to sell this house, I want it to be used by family and friends,” she said. “I have come back here and there are paintings I was working on when Dave disappeared which haven’t been touched since.
“I have gone into my studio and thought ‘Dave loved what I was doing so I have got to finish it’.
“I feel it is such a special place – it is exactly what Dave was all about.
“What we are doing on Saturday, which feels really good and special, is we have asked the mayor here, who adored Dave, to do a little ceremony outside the mayor’s office. Then we have invited the whole village for an aperitif at the foyer, the village hall.
“We are feeling that the people in the village are also still hurting. We just feel this will be a healing thing for ourselves and for the village.
“It is terribly important.”
Val says her family, friends and the people of Woodbridge and Marie have been a source of great comfort since David’s disappearance.
She said she had been “wrapped in a cloak of love” by the people of her home town in Suffolk and treasured the support she had received from charity Missing People.
“It is an amazing organisation,” she said. “I find it a very comforting place to be because only there do people understand what we are going through.”