NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Nearly a month after Ann DeVries got her wedding ring back, she still treats the band with extreme caution.
You might, too, if you had to dig through the garbage dump to get it.
In January, Ann DeVries was doing the dishes when she set her ring on the counter. When she finished, she noticed some smudges on a glass door in her home. After cleaning it, she placed the dirty paper towels over top the ring without realizing it, and since it was trash day, Wednesday, she scooped the whole pile up and dumped it in the garbage.
Later, when she was eating a sandwich at the clubhouse in the Imperial Wilderness community where she lives, she realized she had forgotten to put her ring on. And when she got home, she realized she couldn't find her ring.
"I looked and I looked," she said. "I didn't know what to do."
The ring in question symbolized her relationship with her husband, Jack DeVries. She's 83, he's 78, and they've been married nearly 47 years, and the diamonds on the ring were from Ann's mother. She had trouble sleeping in the few days she was without it.
"I was just heartsick," she said.
So Ann DeVries contacted the only people she could: Waste Management.
David Phillips, a district manager for Waste Management, is responsible for overseeing the county's landfill. While somebody throwing away something precious to them is not unheard of, Phillips said, it is infrequent – it happens maybe four-to-six times a year.
When somebody calls in with lost property, he said, the company immediately tries to identify where the trash might have ended up. If they catch the truck before it dumps at the landfill, that's good news; they can dump the trash apart from the rest of the garbage so it can be searched.
"Once something is disposed of in the landfill, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to find it," Phillips said.
The DeVries should consider themselves lucky, then: Catching it early meant they had the opportunity to search through the garbage for their treasure.
So after losing her ring on Wednesday, Jan. 15, Ann DeVries found herself at the county landfill on the following Monday with a number of friends and Waste Management staff.
"If you don't have anything to do today, would you like to go through the trash?" Ann DeVries recalled saying when she asked her friends for help.
All it took was 56 minutes for Ann DeVries to be reunited with her ring, and habit had a lot to do with it.
Ann DeVries was able to narrow down her selection visually, looking for white bags with a black string. When the party looked through one particular bag, she noticed an empty waffle box she had flattened down — Jack DeVries is rather fond of them. At the bottom of the bag was her ring.
The DeVries largely credit those who helped them, particularly the Waste Management crew.
"It was such a great feeling to actually locate the ring," Phillips said. "It put a smile on everybody's face."
Ann DeVries' face in particular.
"They went way beyond what they had to do," she said. "There are good people."
Now, when Ann DeVries takes her ring off, she knows where she put it: the same small dish in the bathroom.