The 1955 disappearance of U.S. Navy veteran Dwane Roy Dreher

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Dwane Roy Dreher was born in 1922 to Roy and Ethel Dreher. His parents divorced sometime after but remarried in 1925. They moved to Mason City, Iowa in 1932. Ethel filed for divorce in June 1937 and “alleged cruel and inhuman treatment as grounds for her petition,’ the Mason City Globe-Gazette reported.

There is not much known about Dwane’s childhood, but as a teenager, he was somewhat of a rebel.

Shortly after midnight on July 18, 1936, Dwane, then 14, and Lawrence Gonalez, 16, entered the Central Food Market, 111 Second Street N.E., through a bathroom window. As they opened the bathroom door to go inside the store, Patrolman Bill Palenyk found the boys. He had been making his nightly rounds.

The boys had in their possession toy pistols. Both wore gloves and left their shoes outside. They were “all set to break into the store in ‘dime novel fashion,'” the Globe-Gazette stated.

The boys admitted to Palenyk that they had stolen food from the store once before. On another occasion, they had taken $10. The police turned the boys over to the juvenile authorities.

Dwane grew into a law-abiding adult after his John Dillinger-style adventure in 1936 and joined the Navy shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941. He completed basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois. He then served as a coxswain in the U.S. Naval Reserve during WWII and traveled worldwide on multiple ships. 

Dwane had a close relationship with his mother, Ethel Dreher. While stationed in the Persian Gulf in November 1942, Dwane wrote a poem and sent a letter to the Globe-Gazette.

He wrote, “Being unable to be home on Mother’s Day, I am in the hopes that you might dedicate this to my dear mother on that day.” The paper published the poem in January 1943.

Later that year, he was stationed in Brooklyn, New York, and married Marjorie Wolff on Oct. 9, 1943. He returned to Mason City the following month on a 13-day leave.

Dwane and Marjorie welcomed their only child together, Harold Duane Dreher, on May 15, 1944, in Mason City. Dwane returned to the U.S. in 1945, but his marriage did not last; Marjorie filed for divorce on the grounds of cruelty in August 1947.

Dwane Roy Dreher: photo of his 2nd wife, Lois Genzler Dreher at 16 years old
Lois Genzler Dreher, age 16 (Photo credit: FindaGrave)

Dwane married 16-year-old Lois Irene Genzler on June 6, 1952, and they had two children – Leanna D. Dreher, born in 1952, and David Allen Dreher, born on Dec. 1, 1953. David was ultimately killed in a one-car accident on Nov. 6, 1977, while working in Colorado.  

According to the Globe-Gazette, when Lois was pregnant with David, she filed for divorce from Dwane in June 1953 on the grounds of cruelty. She and Dwane had separated on April 30, 1953. However, in November 1954, Dwane and Lois acquired a marriage license; it is unclear if they married a second time, but I think they did.

Dwane’s mother, Ethel, married Clair W. Reynolds on Feb. 26, 1946. She passed away in December 1953 at age 48 after a long illness.

Two years later, her son would vanish without a trace.

On Nov. 7, 1955, Dwane, 33, visited his father around 7:30 p.m. in Mason City. His vehicle, a 1950 maroon Hudson, was found near the Winnebago River the next day, with all his belongings still inside. Police found a parking ticket dated Nov. 8 on his car. 

There was an unconfirmed sighting the same day around noon of Dwane walking north on South Federal Avenue in Mason City. Someone also reported a sighting of Dwane on November 8 in Minneapolis. 

Reports said Dwane mentioned he was traveling to Chicago, although police never confirmed that. 

Dwane was last seen wearing a short blue jacket with a zipper front, blue trousers, and brown Oxford shoes.

Two days after he went missing, Roy Dreher filed a missing person report with Mason City Police Department; he had taken Harold with him. Although the last person to see Dwane, Roy could not “provide police with meaningful details regarding his son’s plans,” according to Dateline.

While there are a few articles about Dwane’s time in the Navy, there are zero pieces on his disappearance. There has been no activity in his case since 1955. However, it remains an open investigation by police.

Life After Dwane

Roy Dreher’s second wife, Vivian, died in 1974 at age 60. Roy and Vivian were living in California at the time of her death. He returned to Iowa, where he passed away at Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines five years after his wife.

Dwane’s ex-wife and Harold’s mother, Marjorie, married Alvin Springer, and Harold took his last name or Alvin adopted him; it is unclear. Alvin and Marjorie later divorced, and in January 1966, she filed a petition charging that he owed her $1700 in back alimony or support.  

Marjorie married Donald Swann, Sr. in 1967 and worked for over 25 years as a Mode’ O Day seamstress. She passed away in October 2017 at age 92 in Mason City.

Harold Springer joined the U.S. Army and married Jolene Tatro on June 13, 1965. They remained married until his death in August 2013.

Harold had spent his life trying to find his father. Later, his son Tim Springer joined him. Tim continues searching for his grandfather in his father’s memory.

Harold Dreher Springer, around age 21 (Photo credit: Mason City Globe-Gazette)

Leanna Dreher resides in Alaska and Mississippi and is around 70 years old. Harold was never in contact with her until shortly before his death.

Because Leanna was only three years old when her father vanished, she does not remember him. However, her mother had told her that “everybody loved him.” He was a “good card player” and a “good dancer.”

According to, Leanna “began using message boards” to find more information on her father.

She said many rumors surfaced over the years regarding her father’s disappearance.

Her father may have drowned himself, or he won too much money playing cards at a local card hall. She wondered if perhaps that incident had upset somebody and resulted in foul play.

Another story she’d heard concerned a couple of guys looking for her father the night he disappeared, mad because he had been messing around with their sister.

Dwane’s former wife and Leanna’s mother, Lois, married Harold Kenneth Watson, 17 years her senior. Lois had relocated to New Mexico and then to Arizona in 1969, where she met Harold, a boilermaker for a construction company. Harold was originally from Oklahoma but had moved to Arizona in the late 1950s. He died at age 61 in 1981. 

Lois subsequently married Paul Edge in Arizona. She passed away at age 55 in 1992. By all accounts, Lois was a good mother, and Leanna seemed to have a good relationship with her.

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

I think Dwane could have left voluntarily because I believe the death of his mother likely caused great anguish. Plus, he had marital problems. But I am not sure he would have walked away from his children.

I also think that Dwane’s father could have killed him. Roy was the last person to see Dwane. Roy must have been abusive to Ethel, so I don’t think it’s far-fetched to believe he abused his children too. This likely would cause a bit of fear in Dwane, even as an adult. We have no idea what happened during the father and son’s visit.

Leanna told Dateline that after Dwane disappeared, “her family didn’t speak about Dwane.” I wonder why. Lois did mention a few things to Leanna about her father – like he was a good dancer, for example. It seems a bit strange to me that nobody spoke of him.

I don’t believe the rumors Leanna mentioned to Dateline. The last one regarding the men and their sister, well, I could see them roughing Dwane up but not killing him.

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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