Greensburg — When Joyce Werner lost her wedding band in 1973, she doubted she’d ever see it again.
Filling in as a part-time cosmetologist in Greensburg in the early 1970’s, Joyce surmised she lost the precious ring at a beauty shop someday, somewhere, and wrote off the priceless heirloom as an unfortunate casualty of a busy lifestyle.
Time went on and she, her husband Paul and their two children left the Tree City for Richmond in 1984. They later settled in Maryland while Paul worked for the FAA in Washington, D.C., then moved again to Dayton, Ohio. These days, the Werners call Cincinnati home, but they’ve never forgotten their time in Greensburg, looking back fondly on their days as residents of the 900 block of East Hendricks Street.
It was there, in a house built by Charles Lee, that Paul and Joyce welcomed their children into the world. It was there where they toasted marshmallows over a fireplace in the family room, essentially snowbound at home by a blizzard one winter. And it was there, nearly three decades after the Werners had moved out, where a worker from Levenstein’s Abbey Carpet made a discovery unlike any he or his co-workers had yet encountered.
Bud Huff found a 14-karat gold wedding band among a collection of hair combs when he removed a vanity from Rita Hellmich’s bathroom as part of a renovation project Friday.
The shiny item bore a tiny inscription inside the band: “PAW JCF 2-3-68”
Bud, after showing his find to co-workers Jeff Meadows and Zachary Huff (Bud’s son), took the ring to Rita Hellmich, present owner of the home once belonging to the Werner family, who set out to solve the peculiar puzzle of the lost wedding band. Bud initially thought the band belonged to Rita, but she knew it wasn’t hers with a single glance. “That’s not mine,” she told Bud. “But I’ll figure this out ... I love a good mystery.”
Rita knew the Werners had been the first to live in her present home and also knew they had, at one time, lived in Batesville. Though Rita had never met Paul or Joyce Werner, she called everyone listed in the Batesville phone book with that surname. Finally, through her phone sleuthing, she located a cousin of Paul Werner who told Rita he would call back with information.
When Rita returned home from the Greensburg High School basketball game Friday, she was elated to find a message on her answering machine from none other than Paul Werner.
Paul described the wedding band as “very sentimental and valuable.”
“Please call back,” the message said. “We’re terribly excited.”
In the days that followed, Rita and the Werners spoke several times and agreed to meet at the house that has meant so much to all of them: their home on East Hendricks.
With television news crews from Indianapolis and Cincinnati present Wednesday morning, Paul, Joyce and their son, Troy, walked once more into a house they hadn’t seen the inside of in 29 years — and they were immediately home again.
“We had our fondest memories here,” recalled Joyce. “It’s beautiful.”
Paul, beaming with nostalgic smiles, called the home “cozy” and gestured here and there, remembering precisely how things had been arranged all those years ago.
Rita’s guests received a tour of the house, bringing back memories for the Werners, but not until after Rita had presented the couple with their long-lost, cherished item.
Paul slid the wedding band onto Joyce’s ring finger Wednesday morning, much as he had nearly 45 years ago. As if the whole tale had been a yarn spun by the most hopelessly romantic of storytellers, the ring was still a perfect fit.
And it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
Paul and Joyce will celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary Sunday. The inscription inside the band bears the initials of Paul and Joyce as well as the date of their wedding: Feb. 3, 1968.
Incredibly, in the 40 years since Joyce first lost track of the wedding band, she never replaced it. Paul, of course, still has his as well, and he showed it off to his family, new friends and news reporters Wednesday morning.
The Werners thanked Bud Huff for his find and brought flowers to Rita Hellmich to show their gratitude.
“We thank her from the bottom of our hearts,” Joyce said of Rita.
After sharing handshakes, hugs and fond memories of happy days gone by, the overjoyed couple sat on a sofa in the very room in which they roasted marshmallows in their fireplace one snowy winter day.
Paul and Joyce looked around the room and both glanced at Joyce’s ring finger, once again bearing a gold wedding band.
“Never in a million years did I think I’d see that ring again,” Joyce remarked.
“This is just one of those unique stories,” Paul said smiling. “We’re very thankful.”