Mary Jane Vangilder

Mary Jane, circa 1945; Age-progression to 50 to 60 years of age (circa 1961 - 1971)

  • Missing Since 04/04/1946
  • Missing From Willard, Ohio
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 11/19/1911 (108)
  • Age 34 years old
  • Height and Weight 4'11 - 5'5, 115 - 150 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown eyes. Mary Jane has freckles across the bridge of her nose, and she may have scars on her shoulder from when she was struck by an airplane propeller. Her maiden name is Croft.

Details of Disappearance

Mary Jane was born in West Virginia and married her husband, James Leslie Vangilder, in 1929, when she was seventeen years old. The couple had seven children, two of whom were stillborn. James was an alcoholic, and Mary Jane alleged he was abusive towards her.

The Vangilders separated in 1943. Their children stayed with James, and Mary Jane initially moved to an apartment in Fairmont, West Virginia. At one point she allegedly invited James to take the children and move in with her, but he declined.

Late in 1943 or early in 1944, Mary Jane moved to Ohio. She took a job as a high life and forklift operator at the Wilkins Air Force Depot in Shelby, Ohio. She initially lived in Plymouth, Ohio, staying at first in a rooming house on Sandusky Street, then moving a short distance to an address on Trux Street. At some point she moved again to a residence on Woodland Avenue in Willard, Ohio.

While she was in Ohio, Mary Jane maintained contact with her eldest daughter Anna, then fourteen years old, by mail. She sent letters, clothes and war bonds. In 1945, she wrote to Anna asking them to her her war bonds back to her. Anna returned the war bonds. A few weeks later, Mary Jane mailed Anna her last $25 war bond, with no note. All contact with her family abruptly stopped after that.

Mary Jane filed for divorce on February 14, 1945. Her divorce petitious accused James of "extreme cruelty and gross neglect of duty." This phrase, a common one used in divorce proceedings, is defined in Ohio as "failure to provide mutual respect, fidelity and support", both emotional and physical support.

She quit her job in Shelby in March, one year and one day after starting, citing "added household duties" as the reason for her departure. A former associate reported seeing her in Willard a few weeks later. This is the last sighting of her.

On November 23, 1945, back in West Virginia, James also filed for divorce. The court records indicate that Mary Jane did not respond to the petition, either in person or through her attorney. On November 26, the divorce was granted, with James getting custody of the five children. He later remarried.

The divorce petition Mary Jane had filed in Ohio was dismissed on April 4, 1946 at "plaintiff's costs and request." The court costs were deducted from a sum of money she'd previously deposited with the court. This is the last sign of her.

Since 1945, Mary Jane's family has occasionally investigated her disappearance. Anna even wrote to the FBI on multiple occasions, but they did not have jurisdiction to open an investigation. James died in 1985, and the house he'd shared with Mary Jane burned down not long afterwards.

In 2005, a newspaper in Plymouth published a story about Mary Jane's disappearance and asked anyone who remembered her to contact her family. A man who had been thirteen years old in 1945 saw the article and wrote to Mary Jane's children.

The letter writer said his father and two older brothers had worked at the Wilkins Air Force Depot at the same time as Mary Jane, and that she was friends with his parents. Mary Jane could not drive and, during 1944 and 1945, she often got ride to work with his father and brothers during 1944 and 1945. The witness could provide no valuable information about her disappearance, however.

Mary Jane's surviving children and grandchildren still hope to learn her fate. She was reported missing to the Shelby Police Department in 2018, seventy-three years after her family last heard from her.

Police think foul play is a strong possibility in his case, as they don't think Mary Jane would have completely cut off ties with her children and other family members. Her case remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency

  • Shelby Police Department 419-347-2242

Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 22, 2020; age-progression added.