A missing son, brother and father

Missing Person SA Michael Modesti

Michael as a young child was a quiet boy who didn't like sleepovers much, always preferring to be at home alongside his Papa. But whilst quiet, he was also cheeky especially in the company of his family. Back then VHS recordings were our family’s thing. A big black recorder was carried around like a beat box and captured all the special events. Any family member reading this will vividly remember his beige coloured corduroy overalls, his stumpy legs, those curly blonde locks and Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’. He was probably only two at the time, bobbing along to the music. He had everyone cheering him on!

Growing up with two older brothers, he shared a room. I can still hear his voice complaining to me that their beds weren't ever made properly. He was always so neat and tidy, and determined. He was always so particular about which clothes he was going to wear, a trait that he carried with him into adulthood. 

I remember his childhood days. He didn't travel well in the car for many of our family day trips and holidays. He was always stuck sharing the middle seat belt with his sister, back when four across the back was legal. He didn't like the showground rides either, always standing aside to watch his siblings. He did enjoy the summer holidays though and spent hours fishing off the jetty with his family.

Most mornings, even after he had moved out of home, he would still pop in for his daily coffee and biscuits and then be off for the day, ironically only to return again around dinner time! We made so many memories around the dinner table. Family tea was my favourite night, and as my children grew so did the dining table- extending to welcome our new joy, grandchildren. Michael was always the one to cause such a raucous in my kitchen. He had such a playful heart, stirring up his nieces and nephews much to their delight and my despair at the noise! I long so very much for those times again. It hurts so much without him.

From first instant Michael was the best and most devoted father.  They had so much fun together, just playing, going on outings and being silly especially when taking 'selfies'.  They were always up to adventures. They went to parties together, to play cafes, to beaches. They walked on the jetty, visited playgrounds, and explored the zoo. They went to the movies, to swimming lessons and even tried out karate. They ate pizza or pasta and then they ate ice cream, three of their favourites. 

I remember 'that' day clearly. Receiving 'that' phone call whilst interstate was devastating and panic immediately set in… Our lives were changed forever.

A life without Michael, for us as his mum and dad, leaves a void of gut wrenching emptiness and grief. A great sadness often engulfs us triggered by a simple thought or photo. Like when I see a car that is the same as his, my heart misses a beat and I panic trying to see if it's him behind the wheel... then I tell myself to breathe. Or when our grandson comes to stay (which he does regularly), I can't help but cry inside and say ‘Where are you Michael? You are missing these milestones and achievements. You're missing this happy fun loving little boy.’ 

The effects of Michael's disappearance have been different for each of us, each trying to cope in our own way as best we can, yet knowing of each other’s great sense of loss.

     -  Told by Gail Modesti, Michael’s Mother (2018).


Michael loved soccer growing up. He was a remarkably skilled and talented club player. Trophies lined the shelf in his bedroom. Mum always complained of having to dust them long after he had moved out.

He was the ‘cool kid’ at high school. He had charisma not only in the way he walked but in the way he talked. He was popular. He knew how to make people laugh; he was a natural at it. 

Remembering back, he would only ever introduce me as 'his sister'. I rolled my eyes at it back then but now I see that his protectiveness over me was just part of his nature.

We weren't really all that close until we both had children. It was only then we would sit in the lounge and actually talk to each other. Not just small talk, but life-talk. These are the moments I treasure. 

And of course, pasta night! We’re Italian and it’s traditional. We slow cooked sauce all day with chuck, pork ribs or meatballs. Michael was the pasta perfectionist. Actually, he was a perfectionist- full stop!

He was the one who stood there patiently stirring the sauce and pasta it as it simmered away. He constantly looked over it, checking a new piece every few minutes. He was the master.

I can still see him now, pouring out that steaming pot to drain over the sink. He’d then add a little sauce to the pan, then the pasta and then just enough sauce to coat it. He'd serve us all a bowl, his being the biggest. I’ll admit, he was pretty good at cooking the pasta, but he was also pretty good at complaining ‘the sauce is too thick. Not enough salt. Not enough chilli or it’s too watery.’

In saying this though, he was also always the first to compliment Mum on her wins, ‘Good sauce tonight Ma.’

Becoming a Father was the best thing to ever happen to Michael. 

Any outsider looking in would instantly see the love he had for his son – it was adoring and protective. It was fun and filled with friendship. Their bond was strong.

They loved each other’s company, and if Michael could have given his son the world he would of.

The emotional and physical burden of living without Michael is relentless. You often blame yourself, then you blame others. You are angry, you are frustrated. You feel helpless, you feel hopeless. It doesn’t get any easier, you just learn to manage better.

Each of us look at things differently now. We capture the moments. We cherish the time. We hold each other together.

     - Told by Gisella Hardy, Michael’s sister (2018)


Michael Modesti was last seen on 9 May 2016 in Beverley, South Australia. He was 33 years old at the time. The circumstances of his disappearance are subject to investigation and foul play is suspected.


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