SOMERS POINT — Most people don’t want to see anything they put down the toilet returned to them, but not Paula Stanton — she wanted her wedding ring back.
Stanton, 60, had been cleaning in and near a toilet in her home when she looked down and noticed that the gold band encrusted with several diamonds on her left ring finger was gone.
“I was cleaning and knew I must have flushed it down,” she said. “It had been a little big on my finger, because it was winter time and my hands were smaller. I felt so bad about it. Sad and embarrassed.”
Stanton’s husband, Michael, had given her the ring for their 20th wedding anniversary. The couple will celebrate 38 years of marriage Dec. 27.
“My husband wound up getting me a replacement ring just like it and said, ‘Hold onto this one,’” Stanton said laughing.
That was nine years ago.
While still holding onto the tiniest shred of hope, Stanton said she figured the ring was likely gone forever.
That made it all the more shocking when she and her husband returned home from spending Thanksgiving this year with their son and his family in South Carolina to find a note taped to their door. It asked them to contact the city’s public works department.
“I figured they had to work near our house and had to dig up the yard or something,” Stanton said.
Ted Gogol, 64, had been with Somers Point Public Works Department since 1997. While on the job, he and other workers would find things here and there, but he said it was still rare because of all the sand, debris and dark color of the water.
About three years ago, Gogol and others were doing work on a sewer line close the Stanton’s house. Gogol knew Michael from volunteering and coaching in community sports programs, so he listened to Stanton when she came over asking about finding a lost ring.
“She had this look on her face while she was telling me about it that said, ‘I can’t believe I did this,’” Gogol said. “I told her really nicely that the chances of us finding it ... well, just in passing, we’d keep an eye out for it.”
Then, just last month, Gogol was out doing routine maintenance work on a sewer line on Bay Avenue with Tom Sweet and Steven Hornig.
“I was only in a manhole less than 400 feet away from their house when I saw something shiny sitting in the mud and debris. I realized it was a ring, and I remembered the woman who was looking for a ring,” he said.
So, he left a note on the family’s front door.
Stanton eventually called public works and Gogol told her he had found a ring, but couldn’t be sure if it was hers, she said. But the couple’s initials were engraved on the interior of the band, and Gogol was able to tell her that it was the one.
“He came by after work and dropped it off. Nobody could believe it. Everyone was in a state of shock. I was hugging him and crying,” Stanton said. “I was calling my kids and telling people about it. My family had a difficult year, and for this to happen...”
After getting advice from a jeweler and boiling it in peroxide and lemon juice (more than once), Stanton returned the ring to her finger, where she wears both the original and replacement rings.
Gogol said it was meant to be and was incredulous that he had found a ring lost for nine years in the sewer system that runs for about 40 miles in Somers Point and processes about a million gallons a day.
“There are honest people in the world, and I was so happy to have been able to help somebody,” Gogol said. “People say around this time of year, crazy things happen. She said it was her Christmas miracle.”