• Washington Post

He Lost His Wedding Ring. A Group of Strangers Showed Up to Find It.

Mary Ann Novetske
Joseph Novetske’s wedding band, which he and his wife designed.

When Joseph Novetske finished raking leaves in his backyard a few weeks ago, he suddenly stopped as he was walking back toward his house.

“I happened to look at my hand. No ring,” said Novetske, 80, who lives in Charlotte, Mich., with his wife, Mary Ann.

His handcrafted wedding band – which he had worn for 42 years – had slipped off. Worried, he began to look for it.

The couple designed the gold wedding band together before they got married, in 1981, carefully selecting a cross in the center and grapevines around it, signifying “the vine of life,” said Mary Ann Novetske, 71.

When he couldn’t find the ring, “I was dispirited,” said Joseph Novetske.

The couple searched the yard with no luck. It was toward the end of the day when he realized it was missing, and it was getting dark.

“I was feeling pretty desperate,” said Mary Ann Novetske.

The following morning on Nov. 5, she posted in a private Facebook group called “What’s happening in Charlotte, Michigan now.” The city has abut 9,200 residents.

“Does anyone have a metal detector?” she wrote in a post, explaining what had happened.

Shortly after sharing the post, the husband and wife – who have three grown children and five grandchildren – went to church. By the time they got out of the service, Mary Ann Novetske had dozens of responses on her post.

“It was people that we didn’t even know that were willing to come and help,” she said. “They came right away.”

That afternoon, eight people showed up at their home – five of whom were strangers, and the other three were neighbors – to look for the ring. A few of them had brought metal detectors.

They searched the large backyard, which Mary Ann Novetske estimates is about the size of half-a-football field. It was filled with several tall piles of leaves her husband had raked the day before.

“They didn’t know us, but here they were, willing to help,” said Mary Ann Novetske. “It was exciting to see so many people care about this.”

Her husband was also touched.

“We love community,” he said. “Obviously, other people do, too.”

So the search for the ring began. Together they went through one pile of leaves at a time, and spread out the piles onto a large tarp to make it easier to detect the ring amid the leaves.

“Two hours into it, I was convinced we were not going to find this ring,” said Mary Ann Novetske.

“There were so many wet leaves, it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” said Lisa Delcamp, who lives next door to the Novetskes.

But people weren’t giving up.

“It was a community hunt,” Delcamp said.

Plus, she said, in the process, “I met a lot of nice people.”

When the search had hit hour three, the group collectively began working on a pile of leaves at the back of the yard. People who had metal detectors were using them, and the rest were using their eyes and hands.

Then Joseph Novetske saw something shiny.

“I saw the band reflecting light because it was a beautiful sunny day,” he said. “There it was!”

“I was very surprised and thankful,” he added.

The searchers were overjoyed.

“I just started crying,” said Delcamp.

Mary Ann Novetske was also emotional – not only because her husband’s ring was no longer lost, but also because a group of strangers cared enough to spend their Sunday afternoons searching for it. The story was first reported by WLNS 6 News.

“I was so astonished that something so little, but something so important to us, would be found,” she said.

“We have each other, and we’ll always have that,” she added, but the ring is “still an important symbol.”

Admittedly, Joseph Novetske said, the band had been a little loose for a while. After they found the ring, the couple went straight to the jeweler to have it re-sized.

“It’s not going anywhere now,” said Mary Ann Novetske.

While losing the ring was stressful, and not something they’d recommend to others, the couple said that finding it filled them with hope.

“We have to look out for one another and be willing to step in,” said Joseph Novetske.

Mary Ann Novetske
After Joseph Novetske, center, lost his wedding band on Nov. 4, several people, including some strangers, showed up to help him find it in his yard in Charlotte, Mich. Back row, from left: Joel, Paula, Kathy, Lisa and Jim.