CLARENVILLE, NL – For Marina Penney, the disappearance of Jennifer Hillier-Penney has not only meant the loss of a mother, but also a best friend.
It’s now nearing one year since her young sister awoke that Dec. 1 morning to find their mother gone without a trace. With no definitive answers to her disappearance, Marina Penney, Hillier-Penney’s eldest daughter, says it is a daily struggle.
“It’s torture; everyday is a nightmare,” said Penney. “I just try and wrap my mind around how life could be so unfair to a woman who deserved everything.
“I shed a tear everyday when I think about what happened to her.”
In the weeks leading up to her disappearance, Hillier-Penney was going through a rough time. Not only was she in the initial stages of divorcing her husband, she was also dealing with the death of her mother and preparing for a new life in Glovertown.
Penney resides in nearby Clarenville, and is kept busy working two jobs. She says Hillier-Penney always came to confide in her during times of distress.
To Penney, the fact her mother never got to see this new life unfold for herself makes her disappearance even more tragic.
“She was getting a job lined up in Glovertown to be closer to me and away from home, and I was all for it,” said Penney. “She was going to get away from what would have been her old life.
And it is just devastating that she didn’t get the chance to finally be happy.”
Disappointment in searches
Penney has also been upset with some of the actions taken since her mother’s disappearance. She says she was disappointed in the volunteer searches organized following the bingo fundraiser event in St. Anthony in early July.
Following the fundraiser, a few ground searches were conducted towards the end of August, and a boat with sonar was brought down for two days in November. Now that winter is coming, Penney hoped much more would have been accomplished.
“It’s just not good enough,” said Penney. “St. Anthony is such a huge country area and they’ve had all summer where they could’ve had different groups of volunteers lined up to go cover different areas each week.
“It’s just not good enough in my opinion.”
Penney has kept close watch on the disappearance of Courtney Lake in St. John’s, a case that dominated provincial media for much of the summer and fall. Through following that case, Penney says it seems much more has been done volunteer-wise to try to find Lake.
“Basically every week since [Lake] has gone missing they’ve had different groups out there looking for her,” said Penney. “And I thought the same would’ve been done for mom, but it wasn’t.”
‘The laughs we shared’
Penney says she tries to keep in contact with her younger sister, and hopes to return to the Northern Peninsula in January to visit her pop and pack up some of her mother’s things. She says she would like to return sooner for the Dec. 2 balloon release, but her two-job schedule will keep her working up into the new year.
Dealing with the loss of a mother under such uncertain circumstances is a daily battle for Penney. The one light that stays with her during these dark times is the cherished and joyful memories of her mother and all the things they shared.
“When my mind is exhausted from trying to come up with answers, I just think about being home and the laughs that we shared,” said Penney. “I just have to have faith that police do know something and they are building a case. Even though some days it feels like everyone is failing her.”