What could have easily been a large financial loss, as well as an emotional anguish, instead turned into a happy ending for a young Coarsegold couple just three days after Christmas.
While getting out of her car with her six-month old twins Charlotte Rose and Stella Grace, Katie (Cruz) Smith, 25, did not notice her $10,000 wedding ring had slipped off her finger, falling to the pavement in the Vons parking lot in Oakhurst.
With her twins settled in the shopping cart, and a long list in hand, Smith set off inside the store.
Call it a Christmas miracle if you will, but while Smith was shopping, along came Brad Pence, Dustin Little, and Michelle Ruddock of Yosemite Valley, coming out of Vons about 12:30 p.m. when Little noticed the ring on the ground.
Not knowing how long the ring had been there, Ruddock took a chance and left a note under one of the wiper blades on the nearest vehicle - Smith’s Nissan Ultima.
“I found a ring on the ground. If you lost a ring, go see the Vons manager and describe it to him to get it back,” read the note. While Ruddock was writing the note, Pence ran the ring into the store and gave it to store management.
Pence called the ring rescue a group effort.
“I figured it was a wedding ring when I saw the diamonds,” Pence said.
Smith saw the note with Pence’s name on it upon her return to the car about an hour later.
“I started panicking when I saw the note ... I didn’t realize I possibly lost it ... I just thought I had left it at home,” Smith said.
Pence’s name and phone number were on the note, but the numbers weren’t legible. Smith tried a few calls to numbers she thought she could make out on the note with no luck. She turned to Facebook and located Pence, a 26-year-old resident of Yosemite Valley.
When told the value of the ring, Pence said he figured it was valuable because it was so heavy.
But, he said, “I didn’t know it was worth $10,000 ... wow, that is crazy.”
Smith wanted to meet Pence and his friends, and insisted that he accept a reward for the kind and honest deed by him and his friends - but Pence declined the offer, asking Smith to “please, please pay it forward.”
“I honestly never thought I would hear anything about it ever again, but I and my friends are thrilled and super happy that Katie got her ring back,” Pence said.
“When I saw my ring in Vons, I was stunned,” Smith said. “It’s really rare for someone to be honest enough to run it in.”
Katie, 26, a Buchanan High graduate, married Justin Smith, a standout basketball player and 2007 Yosemite High graduate, on March 1 in Pismo Beach.
The couple’s twins were born six weeks premature on June 23, at Clovis Community Hospital. Charlotte weighed four pounds, nine ounces, and Stella weighed three pounds, 15 ounces. The babies spent three weeks in the hospital’s natal intensive care unit before coming home to Yosemite Lakes Park.
Justin works for Pacific Gas and Electric as a linesman, and was working in Northern California on the day the ring was lost and found. Like Katie, he is thankful Pence and his friends were the ones who came across the ring.
“When Katie told me what happened, I couldn’t believe someone would turn it in,” Justin said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
“There is so much crazy stuff happening in the world right now, and I would really enjoy the news more if there were more positive stories to read like this one,” Pence said.
Pence, who has his cosmetology license, is ready to leave on a two-week vacation to Nicaragua, and will then report to work Jan. 25 at Mammoth Lakes as a ski lift operator for the rest of the winter season.
“I would have been completely devastated if I lost my wedding ring,” Smith said. “I want this ring to become a family heirloom ... one day I want to pass the ring onto one of my girls. Words can not express how grateful I am and how much I appreciate their honesty.”