Mother has son's body, 41 days later

Family has closure after long search of river

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Tacoma -- Finding her son's body was Shirley McNamara's greatest hope, and deepest fear.

As she stood next to the Puyallup River on Saturday morning, watching family and friends prepare to probe the chilly waters for 29-year-old Josh McNamara, two fishermen downriver spotted his body.

The Pierce County Medical Examiner's Office had not yet identified the man, but officials said it likely was McNamara.

Shirley McNamara had to go to the spot. She needed to see.

"This can start the (grieving) process," she said, swallowing tears.

Although she initially thought about marking the area with flowers, she decided instead to honor the spot 11 miles upriver where Josh McNamara disappeared July 8.

That was where she lost her son, she said.

More than 30 volunteers searched three days for any sign of him or his inner tube, using probes, sonar, cadaver dogs, a helicopter and divers.

They found no sign of the man who made everyone smile, loved the outdoors and doted on his 2-year-old daughter.

Without that closure when Josh McNamara first disappeared, his mother decided to search on her own. She couldn't just wait at her Everett home and hope somebody would find him. She needed to be there, to see the murky water that hid her son, to try everything she could to bring him home.

So she drove down nearly every weekend and walked the riverbanks, handing out fliers with Josh McNamara's photo and sometimes warning people frolicking in the water to wear life vests.

Now, his family has Josh McNamara back, even if it's just a body to bury and the memory of his smile clutched close to their hearts.