A Huslia man’s mysterious disappearance leaves family asking for the public’s help

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Published: Nov. 21, 2020 at 8:07 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Willis Derendoff, 34, has been missing in Fairbanks since November 10. Originally from Huslia, Willis Derendoff works seasonally for Taiga Mining Company and is a performing musician.

“He plays the guitar, he plays the drums, he plays piano, he plays the violin and he is a singer,” Derek Derendoff, a family member said. “That is his passion to play everything.”

His disappearance is a mystery and a shock to those that known him well.

Willis Derendoff’s mother, Gladys Derendoff, said she usually hears from her son multiple times a day. Derek Derendoff says it was normal to hear from Willis Derendoff regularly.

“He usually calls me three or four times a day, and sometimes he even calls me in the middle of the night,” Derek Derendoff said. “When he didn’t contact me, I instantly knew something was wrong.”

Willis Derendoff was seen in the early morning hours of November 10. A friend said he stopped by Derendoff’s hotel room at the Extended Stay America in Fairbanks. Derendoff was there but told the friend he was with a girl and couldn’t open the door.

Later that day he was seen at Wrights Air Service and at the gas station near Fred Meyer grocery store on Airport Way.

On November 11 Willis Derendoff was spotted at Stone Soup Café, a place family said he does not frequent. Another spotting that day put him in downtown Fairbanks.

On November 12 there was a tip he was seen near the Extended Stay Hotel. A witness said he was with a tall Native Alaskan man, with a thick mustache, wearing a black Carhart jacket with silver lining. Willis Derendoff was said to be wearing a black leather jacket, red sleeper fleece pants and a beanie-style hat, the same outfit he was seen in on November 10.

“It’s very strange for Willis to walk around in all these areas.” Roberts said, “It’s not normal for him to wear his clothes over and over again. He would have changed his clothes, he would have went back to the hotel.”

Family says he occasionally suffers from depression and anxiety and was somewhat acting strange before the disappearance. His phone was broken and he did not have his identification or debit card with him.

“He was confused, sleep deprived,” Gladys Derendoff said.

Willis Derendoff is between 5′7″ and 5′10″ tall, weighs 160 pounds and has black-brown hair and brown eyes.

The Huslia Tribal Council is offering a $2,500 reward for the information leading to the whereabouts of Willis Derendoff.

“Please if anyone knows anything about this please, please come forward, there’s phone numbers, we are upping the reward,” Gladys said tearfully.

The family is asking for the public’s help in searching for Willis Derendoff. Volunteers are meeting at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall Sunday, November 22nd between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. All volunteers need to dress warm and anyone with a snow machine or snowshoes are asked to bring those as well. All social distancing guidelines will be followed.

If you have seen Willis Derendoff or have any information on his disappearance please call the Alaska State Troopers 24-hour tip line at 907-371-9989

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