Romance rings true for local couple Lost wedding band found after more than 20 years
By: ANGELA CABEZAS Record Express Staff, Staff Writer
What started as a childhood hobby became the means for a Valentine’s Day miracle last week after Mike Straub, a metal detector enthusiast from Akron, recovered a wedding band lost in Roland Park more than 20 years earlier.
Mike’s interest in metal detecting was inspired by father, who enlisted his son’s help searching for old coins.
"He got me started when I was little," Mike said. "Dad would sweep back and forth with the detector, and I’d dig. I remember we started at the beach because sand was easier for me to dig through. Then about 10 years ago I started doing it my own, but I never found anything but modern coins."
"I always used to tease him," said Jamie, Mike’s wife. "He gets a (metal detecting) magazine, and people publish their finds. There’s always big rings on the cover, and I always said, ‘Why don’t you ever find me a ring like that?’ It’s been our long joke."
When Mike finally came home with the treasure his wife had been hoping for, she was shocked.
"I came home from work, and he said, ‘I found you a ring,’" Jamie said. "It was in perfect condition, and I told him, ‘Oh my word, it’s so pretty! I love it!’"
Later, when examining the ring more closely, she noticed something she’d missed — initials and a wedding date engraved on the inside of the gold band.
"I told Mike, ‘We need to find whose ring this is,’" she said. "He just looked at me and said, ‘Seriously? How are we going to begin to look for these people?’"
Though the task seemed impossible, the Straubs set about tracking down the ring’s mysterious owners. They began by searching the Lancaster County Courthouse’s online database, looking up what marriage licenses had been granted for the date on the band. Two names were listed, and much to the Straubs’ excitement, the initials matched those on the ring.
The next step was to look the names up in the phone book, but when they found them, the middle initials didn’t match. Not to be deterred, however, the Straubs did a reverse lookup on Google and discovered that the middle initials in the yellow pages had been the result of a typo.
Finally, a week before Valentine’s Day, Jamie picked up the phone and dialed the number of Gloria and Alex Novachek, the Lititz couple whose names the Straubs had matched to the ring.
"I was so nervous," Jamie said. "Gloria picked up the phone, and I said, ‘You don’t know me, but did you lose a wedding ring?’ There was just complete silence on the other end."
When Gloria was finally able to speak, she informed Jamie that she had lost a ring, but that it had happened over 20 years ago. In response, Jamie asked her to describe the band as well as tell her the couple’s wedding date.
"It matched, and I told her, ‘I think I have your ring,’" Jamie said. "I explained how we’d found it, and then we both got a little choked up."
"It was amazing," Gloria said. "I had forgotten about it; it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. I don’t even remember exactly how long ago the ring was lost, just that it was anywhere from 22 to 26 years, because one of our daughters was still in a stroller."
The ring was lost because of a sizing issue — the cold weather made Alex’s band too loose, so he and Gloria, whose own ring was too tight on her, decided to swap their identical bands. Gloria’s ring was still too large for Alex, though, and one day it slipped off his finger.
"He was devastated," Gloria stated. "We put an ad in the Lititz Record, and we got a metal detector, but it never turned up. We thought it was in Lititz somewhere — we would go over to the Akron park with the children occasionally, but it never came to mind (as a place to look)."
The couple eventually stopped searching for the missing ring, believing it was gone for good.
"You move on," Gloria said. "We just didn’t wear our wedding bands. We never had the extra money to (replace it)."
After arranging a time to meet the Straubs and get her ring back, Gloria’s first reaction was to call her husband, but she hesitated, knowing she probably wouldn’t be able to reach him at work.
"I stood there with the phone thinking, ‘Should I call or shouldn’t I?’" she said. "Then I thought, ‘No — let’s keep it a secret.’"
Gloria decided to give the ring to her husband as a Valentine’s Day surprise, and she recorded WGAL’s coverage of their story, planning to replay it for Alex, whose second shift job had prevented him from seeing the news on TV prior to that point.
"It didn’t happen as planned, but it worked out even better," she said. "On Saturday my daughter put the news on, not realizing they were going to show the story. Alex walked past the room when they were doing a lead on what was coming up next. They had our wedding photo on and he heard something about a Valentine treasure. The picture just flashed and he said, ‘That looks like me,’ but didn’t think twice about it."
When this occurred, the Novacheks’ daughter caught Gloria’s eye and mouthed, "They’re showing it!" The two of them hustled Alex onto the couch, insisting that he watch the program.
"I made him sit through the whole newscast until they started the story," Gloria said. "When they began, our wedding photo was in the background. Alex said, ‘Hey, why are we on TV?’ I told him to just listen. And then the whole story unfolded."
Her husband’s reaction was just as she’d hoped it would be.
"He was amazed the ring was found after all this time," she said, "and he was grateful that Jaime and Mike took the time to search for us. Most people would have kept the ring or not even known how to track us down. We will be forever thankful." More RING, page A17