Long lost ring found in time for 20th anniversary
By Jenn Watt
For 11 years, through ice and snow, heat waves and floods, Manuel Rodriguez’s wedding ring sat buried under several feet of sand in Gull Lake.
Children and families at Miners Bay Lodge splashed in the warm waters that flowed overtop of it for more than a decade, unaware that below their feet was a lost ring waiting to be found.
Not that it wasn’t being sought after. Each summer Rodriguez, his wife Suzi Morrison and a team of their friends who visit the lodge would scour the beach looking for the platinum and gold band lost during a game of football in 2005.
But as each year passed, it seemed less likely it would ever be found.
“Last year [they] said, ‘let’s look for the ring,’” Manuel says, sitting in the screened in porch of the lodge, which overlooks the shoreline that concealed the ring for so many years. “And I said, ‘no, forget about it.’ And I realized I had lost hope in the ring.”
Suzi Morrison and Manuel Rodriguez were married 20 years ago.
Morrison says they weren’t sentimental about the object itself, but were upset to have lost something important to them.
“Everyone was trying to find it. There were probably 20 people with masks and snorkels and goggles diving for it,” she says.
Three months after the ring slipped off Rodriguez’s finger into Gull Lake, the couple decided to replace it with a similar band. And life went on.
The Toronto couple are Miners Bay regulars. Morrison has been visiting the lodge, which she likens to the resort in the movie Dirty Dancing, since she was a teenager. When she and Rodriguez were married, they decided to continue the tradition, bringing their young family year after year to the historic venue.
“There’s just so much nostalgia here for everyone who comes,” says Morrison, who can list off a bevy of activities from the very serious men’s table tennis tournament to the community church service on Sundays. Because the same families visit on the same weeks each year, they’ve become a closely knit group. Their two children, who started coming up when they were small kids, are now teenagers.
The ring had nearly been forgotten when a treasure hunter named Terry Bradt came knocking at the door of the lodge. Bradt’s hobby is finding things. He and his wife Crystal have four metal detectors and in their spare time, they like to comb beaches looking for missing items.
While public beaches are already heavily searched, private resorts don’t get as much attention, Bradt says.
When he approached Russ and Dottie Wunker of Miners Bay Lodge about searching their beach last October, they were hesitant at first, Dottie recalls.
“We were having a cold, ugly, rainy day … and everybody was in a grumpy mood,” she says. “I gave [Bradt] a bit of a hard time about having permission to do this.”
But according to Wunker, Bradt was gracious and went about his business all afternoon clad in hip-waders in water up to his armpits.
When he came back to the lodge he had “all kinds of coins and junk,” Wunker says. “Then he said, ‘I did find one more thing.'"
He brought a shovel into the store on the property with a little pile of stones and in the pile was a shiny wedding band.
They knew immediately whose ring it was.
“It was a huge surprise because I had given up hope we’d find it,” says Rodriguez, who looks to Morrison with a smile. If there was any doubt, their wedding date and Morrison’s initials were engraved on the inside.
As they tell the story there is some confusion over the initials. It could be S.M. for Suzi and Manuel or it could be Morrison’s initials. She wiggles the corresponding band off of her finger to verify – it has been 11 years, after all – hers reads M.R.
Finding the ring was all in a day’s work for Bradt, who lives in Bancroft, but travels a surprisingly long way to service his hobby.
On the muggy Friday he travelled to Miners Bay to meet the couple, he’d already found another person’s ring in Emily Park near Omemee. After seeing a link on Kijiji asking for the public’s help in finding the ring, Bradt headed out with his metal detector and hunted it up.
“When you find stuff and research to return it, that is really rewarding and you can’t put a dollar value on that part,” he says during a stop at the Haliburton Echo office on his way home.
As with the Emily Park find, he was screening the Miners Bay beach for the challenge.
“It was after Thanksgiving,” he says. “The water levels go down in the fall. It’s the time to search. Everybody’s gone home.”
There is plenty to find during any expedition, but locating valuables isn’t as common as you’d think. “I don’t want anybody to think there’s jewelry galore to find,” he says.
Sometimes those who’ve lost something will offer Bradt a reward, but he says that’s not his motivation.
“The reward is finding it,” he says. “That’s the challenge. It’s a real challenge.”
For Wunker, the ring represents the importance of kindness even when you’re feeling down or stressed.
“It turned into one of those happy gifts that had you been a curmudgeon that you felt like being, it wouldn’t have happened and that’s the truth. You make choices in life and it’s one of those things to remind you to try to take the better path.”