Even though it was 13 years ago, Mary Strand remembers vividly how she dove for her diamond anniversary ring as it swirled down the drain of her toilet. The St. Paul resident had accidentally knocked the ring into the bowl while washing her hands in her downstairs bathroom.
Strand immediately called her husband, David, the owner of a sewer and drain cleaning company who has rescued his fair share of flushed items throughout his career.
He rushed home, removed the toilet and rolled it around the back porch — a way to dislodge the ring if it was stuck inside.
When that strategy failed, he ran a camera 200 feet down the sewer line to see if the ring was there. Still no success. His last-ditch effort was to alert municipal workers of the loss, hoping that the ring might turn up in the sewer system still further down the line.
With no other options at their disposal, the Strands gave up.
"And that was it," David said. "We just wrote it off.
Flash forward to March of this year as a diamond ring emerges from the muck a quarter-mile away from the Strand home at the Rogers Wastewater Treatment Plant.
John Tierney, manager of mechanical maintenance at the Rogers Plant, and two machinists, Bruce Benson and Todd Bennett, had been investigating a malfunction in a piece of equipment that handles the intake of wastewater at the plant. While removing grit and solids near the equipment, they spotted a sparkling object that turned out to be a gold anniversary ring with a large marquise-shaped center diamond flanked by more than two dozen accent stones.
After 13 years in the St. Paul sewer system, the ring endured a bit a band damage and a few of the accents stones were missing. But, overall, the ring was in remarkably good shape.
According to a press release, Tierney realized that the ring was probably special to someone and initiated a public appeal to find the ring’s owner via the Metropolitan Council, a government agency serving towns and counties in the Twin Cities area. The story of the missing ring was covered by local TV stations and posted on social media.
Nearly 300 people responded with photos and descriptions of rings lost down the drain.
“Some of the stories are heartbreaking,” said Kai Peterson, the Metropolitan Council's information specialist. “An elderly woman hoping for a miracle for this memory of a deceased husband. One individual even called in lamenting that they had lost their ring the night of their wedding.”
Mary Strand's daughter had seen the coverage of the missing ring and alerted her mom. Mary called the Council and eventually sent in a photo of her lost ring, a gift from David marking their 33rd anniversary. A panel of two jewelers enlisted by the Council confirmed that it was a likely match.
Ann Bloodhart, general council for the organization, presented Mary with her lost ring during an informal ceremony posted to the Metropolitan Council's YouTube page.
"This is my ring," Mary said, laughing. "It's nice to see it again."
In the video, the animated 71-year-old describes how she tried in vain to rescue the ring as it got sucked down the drain.
Tierney likened the odds of finding the ring to the odds of his winning the lottery.
“You’re not going to look for that and find it,” he said. “The odds are astronomical.”
The Strands are planning on repairing and refurbishing the long-lost ring.
“I remember looking at it and flashing back to when [David] gave it to me,” Mary told The Washington Post. “That’s how memorable a thing it was.”
Credits: Screen captures via YouTube.com/Metropolitan Council.