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The portrait of Lyle and Marie McCann at their memorial service at the St. Albert Catholic Church, in St. Albert, Alta., on Saturday, July 30, 2011. (John Ulan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The portrait of Lyle and Marie McCann at their memorial service at the St. Albert Catholic Church, in St. Albert, Alta., on Saturday, July 30, 2011. (John Ulan/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Family holds memorial service for Alberta couple missing for more than a year Add to ...

Family members of a missing Alberta couple hope a memorial service held Saturday will help them move on, although they still don't know the full story of what happened to Lyle and Marie McCann.

"It's like a book with no end. We need to find an end to complete the story," one relative, Murray McCann, told the service at a Catholic Church overlooking St. Albert, just north of Edmonton.

The McCanns, both in their 70s, vanished while on a trip in their motorhome more than a year ago and are presumed dead.

Their burned RV was discovered shortly after they disappeared and RCMP say they were murdered.

Mourners at the service held in this community near Edmonton were handed envelopes with rose petals inside and were asked to deposit them in an urn that is being buried in a cemetery plot reserved for the couple.

Many who attended the service had only a passing acquaintance with the McCanns or didn't know them at all, but said they came because they felt moved by news stories of the exhaustive search for the couple.

One man named Ken, who didn't want to give his last name, took a seat in the back pew and wondered what could make someone want to kill the McCanns.

"It could happen to me. I'm a retired person who runs around with a motor home," he said.

The courts recently declared the McCanns dead so that their family can start processing wills and dealing with the estate.

The RCMP say they have named a person of interest in their investigation but no arrests have been made.

During the service, family spoke about how Lyle McCann, who had been a long-haul trucker, told great stories and loved the smell of diesel. Marie McCann, meanwhile, was fondly remembered for her loud laugh and pie-baking prowess.

At one point mourners erupted into applause when two members of the search and rescue team that tried to find the McCanns were asked to stand.

Saturday's memorial was held on what would have been the couple's 59th wedding anniversary.

"I thank both of you for teaching me the importance of a devoted marriage, both of you adoring each other," said Nicole Walsh, the couple's eldest granddaughter, during the eulogy.

At times, the memorial offered a glimpse into pieces of rural Prairie history that are long gone. Marie McCann's younger sister recounted that during their childhood in Torrington, Alta., Marie would rise and get the wood stove going each morning.

It wasn't easy being the first up in those days, she said, noting that water in the basin would be frozen in the winter. But by being the eldest daughter, Marie was given a cow upon her marriage to Lyle.

Last month, the RCMP said they had been leading searches in dense bush for the McCanns in a remote area near Lodgepole in west-central Alberta.

The investigation faced criticism last year over its delays in getting started, as well as with the way staff at an RCMP detachment in B.C. failed to take contact information for a tipster.

After the burning motorhome was found near a campground two-hour's drive west of Edmonton, police found the registration linking the vehicle to the McCanns and later phoned their home. They said they knocked on the McCanns' door but found nobody there.

Police didn't begin looking for the couple until five days later, after their daughter reported they didn't show up in Abbotsford, B.C., for a planned camping trip.

RCMP spokesman Patrick Webb told a news conference at the time that the case didn't immediately set off alarm bells because vehicles are often found burning in the bush and it's not unusual for people to be away from home during the summer season.

Police also faced embarrassment when they said tipsters had come into an RCMP detachment in Prince George, B.C., saying they had seen the SUV.

But RCMP then admitted that they hadn't gotten the tipsters' contact details and urged them to return again.

When the tipsters eventually surfaced, they recounted how their offer of information about the SUV sighting was rebuffed.

A $60,000 reward is available for information that helps find the McCanns. Tips continue to come in, but no one has tried to claim the reward.

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