Last Thursday, the wedding ring that Philadelphian Jim McAllister wore continuously since 1974 slipped off his finger in the surf at Ocean City, NJ.
McAllister was with his son, Ryan, when a large wave nearly knocked them over. Jim felt the ring falling off his finger, and the water was clear enough for him to see the plain gold band slowly disappearing from his view.
"It was a sinking feeling because my wife passed away three years ago," the 70-year-old McAllister told Philadelphia's ABC-TV affiliate, WPVI. "Her name was Ellen, and we were married for 47 years."
The ring was inscribed, "Love Always."
The loss was also emotionally devastating to Ryan.
"Memories of my mom just crushed me," he told WPVI. "I remember going over there... and sliding my feet around, trying, hoping that I can find this circle. And not finding it just made me feel broken."
The McAllisters didn't give up hope, however. Ryan's wife's friend posted an alert to a bunch of Ocean City Facebook groups. Facebook users were quick to direct the McAllisters to a local metal detector enthusiast, John Favano, who is a member of the international group called The Ring Finders.
Favano, who runs the South Jersey chapter of The Ring Finders, started his search for McAllister's ring at low tide, mapping out a grid based on where Jim said he was standing when the ring sank to the bottom.
He searched for about an hour unsuccessfully, but then decided to expand his grid to an area farther into the ocean.
Favano's hunch paid off.
"And then I get another signal," he said. "And it's really deep. I dig it, bring it up, sift the sand out, shells are in there, and I see this big ring in there."
Jim watched as Favano scored his miraculous find.
"He dug a couple of scoops and all of a sudden he shouted, 'I found it!' And there it was," Jim explained.
Ryan needed only one word to describe how he felt when his dad got his ring back: "Elation."
Ellen's brother told Jim, "I can't help but to believe that Ellen helped you find this."
Favano told WPVI that he feels great when he is able to return a lost item to its owner.
"It makes me happy that I'm helping someone," he said.
As for Jim, his ring finger will be unadorned on his next visit to the beach at Ocean City.
"No ring," he said. "It'll stay home."
The Ring Finders is a loosely knit network of more than 1,000 members in 25 countries. Each member shares a love of metal detecting and reuniting people with their cherished keepsakes. The group's website claims that members have recorded more than 8,441 successful recoveries since it was founded 12 years ago.
See the ABC affiliate's full report here.
Credits: Screen captures via 6abc.com.