10 Years Later, Friend Recalls NW Indiana Man Taken Hostage In Iraq

(CBS) — Northwest Indiana businessman Jeff Ake went to Iraq in 2005 and never came back. The LaPorte, Indiana business owner was taken hostage on April 11, 2005, while installing equipment at a water bottling plant near Baghdad.

His captors released a videotape of him, then demanded ransom money from his wife before talks broke off. With no clues as to Ake’s whereabouts, his best friend is remembering him on the 10th anniversary of his disappearance.

“Jeff was a lot of fun to be around,” Dave Dlesk. “He had a great sense of humor. He was very energetic.”

Dlesk now lives in the Boston area and graduated with Ake from Downers Grove North High School and roomed with him at the University of Illinois. He believes that Ake is now dead.

“It hurts a little bit less,” Dlesk said. “Just more sad than anything I guess.”

But should Ake surface, Dlesk knows just what to ask.

“Concerned about his health and his well-being and then when I hear the story of what happened,” Dlesk said. “I don’t spend a lot of time anymore thinking about that kind of reunion.”

Instead, Dlesk and other alumni of Downers Grove North set up a website, JeffAke.com, and a fund to help Ake’s wife Lilliana and four children in LaPorte. Dlesk says the Ake family is more financially stable now, so the best way to honor Ake’s memory is to pass on kindness to others.

“People need to step up and help out because you never know when something like this may affect you,” Dlesk said.

Jeff Ake’s wife, Lilliana, declined to be interviewed for this story. The U.S. State Department says out of concern for the safety of hostages and the privacy of their families, it doesn’t comment on ongoing cases.

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