Lansing She knew someone killed her daughter, but died without ever finding the evidence.
On Friday, family and friends will gather for a dual memorial service in East Lansing to celebrate the lives of Ardis and Paige Renkoski.
Paige disappeared nearly 28 years ago. Her mother, Ardis turned the pain into action, becoming a champion not only for other families of the missing, but for investigators as well.
The murder mystery spans nearly three decades. In May of 1990, 30 year-old Paige Renkoski pulled over on the shoulder of I-96 near Fowlerville and was never seen again. The car she was driving was found still running, with her purse and shoes inside. Paige's sister, Michele Renkoski-Hollis said, "The first year after Paige disappeared was pretty traumatic on everyone. But after that, my mom really used that time to become proactive." Michigan State Police Sgt. Sarah Krebs said, "I know that she said that she was not going to let the disappearance of Paige destroy her or her family and she didn't."
Instead, Renkoski immersed herself in support groups to help her family heal. Sgt. Krebs said, "She never thought that Paige was coming home at any point. She never toyed with that idea. And she was very realistic about what happened to her." Through the years, thousands of tips, and dead ends, Ardis Renkoski never gave up. Her positive energ and positive relationships with investigators grew into a role of advocacy for other families of the murdered and missing. Sgt. Krebs said, "That's one of the reasons that I would use her, for, to bring her into audiences and to give law enforcement and medical examiners and different groups a word from the victims life and how it touches them and I think that's really important for us to hear."
Police respected Renkoski so much, in 2015 they established the Ardis Renkoski Advocacy Award. She was the first recipient. Sgt. Krebs said, "I think she became a role model for other family members and we pointed them in her direction."
Last June, Renkoski suffered a fall in her home that left her paralyzed. She fought through rehab with the same spirit she fought for Paige. Renkoski-Hollis said, "It's amazing. She was always smiling and always positive." But Renkoski's positive energy was not enough to fight the battle. She died in December. It was her wish to share her memorial with Paige on Paige's birthday.
A picture of Paige hangs in the family's Okemos home where Renkoski raised four daughters. Renkoski-Hollis, the youngest, combs through old photos to share at the memorial. Among them, pictures of Paige she hasn't seen in years.
She found them stashed away in a separate box. Michele tears up as she recalls a vision she had about a year or two after her sister disappeared. "I saw her standing at the end of the driveway in a pink and blue sweatsuit like everyone used to wear, like the running suits, and it was just so vivid and she was just happy and standing there and I turned around as quickly as I could and of course, she wasn't there. You know I was just, it was pretty real. We miss her."
While she grieves a loss, that never made sense, Renkoski-Hollis plans the double memorial that does. She finds comfort knowing her mother is now with Paige and finally has answers to the murder mystery. "My mom does know. And that was a little bit of peace with her passing so quickly really. At the end, but she does know. She knows everything."
Sgt. Krebs said, "I told her before she went, that, give me a hint. Tell me where she's at. Cause we're never going to stop looking for her."
Paige Renkoski would have been 58 years-old on February 2nd. Her mother was 84. Their memorial will be held that day at 1:30 p.m. at St. John's Catholic Church in East Lansing.