OCEAN CITY — A feel-good story of perseverance, a little luck and a touch of divine intervention emerged over the weekend when a Pennsylvania woman’s diamond wedding band was found with the help of the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) and a gracious stranger.
Last Friday evening, Meg Walls of Chambersburg, Pa. was playing football with her young son on the beach at 4th Street when her diamond wedding band flew from her hand and disappeared in the vast expanse of deep sand not far from the Boardwalk. About 24 hours later, through the diligent efforts of OCPD Sgt. Dennis Eade and his colleagues with more than a little help from a Delaware man, the ring was miraculously found and returned to the rightful owner in what has become the feel-good, happy ending story of the young summer.
Eade, who works the night shift in the downtown area, was on bicycle patrol on the Boardwalk when he first encountered the emotional Walls family tenaciously searching for something on the beach.
“I was biking up the Boardwalk past 4th Street when I saw a family on their hands and knees desperately searching for something in the sand,” he said. “It was obvious they were looking for something very important or very valuable.”
Eade said a church group on the beach near the Boardwalk joined the effort, adding as many as 40 to 50 people to the search party. Nonetheless, the search continued to no avail and it was becoming increasingly more apparent the ring would not be found, at least that first night. Eade said he contacted the OCPD’s resident treasure hunter, Sergeant Mark Paddack, who enjoys metal-detecting and searching for lost items and finding their rightful owners, to possibly resume the search the following day. Just two years ago, Paddack successfully tracked down the owner of a class ring that had been missing from a Navy man for over two decades.
Eade said he contacted Paddack, who agreed to bring his metal-detecting equipment the following day during the day shift to help search for the missing wedding band. However, Eade said he had to resort to Plan B the following day.
“I called Mark and asked if he was available to help with this because I know how much he enjoys this kind of thing,” he said. “The next day, he brought his equipment with him during day shift, but he they were so swamped he never got around to getting out there and continuing the search.”
When Eade learned the search had not been resumed, he went back down to the 4th Street area to see if he could find out anything new.
When Eade first arrived on the scene on Friday night while the family was just beginning to search for the lost ring, he was approached by the Walls’s 7-year-old son who thanked him for helping with the search, which proved to be his motivation to give the missing ring the attention it deserved.
“Their 7-year-old boy came up to me while I was in uniform and thanked me for finding his mommy’s ring. He was very emotional and Meg was also very emotional naturally, so the 7-year-old boy really motivated me to make every effort to find the ring,” he said.
On Saturday evening, Eade returned to the 4th Street area and learned from other officers the ring had not yet been found, and Paddack had not yet had the opportunity to deploy his sophisticated equipment, when a little divine intervention and a lot of good fortune came into play.
“I saw this gentleman, Barry Betts, walking along the water line with a metal detector and I approached him and asked a favor,” he said. “I asked him if he wouldn’t mind doing a few passes over the area where the ring was lost. We both knew it was a long shot, but he agreed.”
Eade said there were numerous factors weighing against the successful recovery of the ring. For one thing, nearly 24 hours had passed and the sands had likely shifted. In addition, the area near 4th Street was heavily traveled with foot traffic and there was even a group of kids playing ball right over the area where the ring had been lost. In addition, the ring itself presented challenges.
“The ring was white gold, and I don’t know too much about this, but apparently it doesn’t emit a loud ping on the metal detector,” he said. “At any rate, Mr. Betts made a couple of passes and on the second pass, he heard a little ping and made a little scoop. He turned around and looked at me and I looked right back at him, and I knew from his face he had found the ring.”
Eade said he had collected Walls’ contact information the night before so Paddack could reach out to her if he had been successful. When Betts found the ring and turned it over to him, Eade went straight to a nearby hotel and made contact with a family member.
“I got in touch with a family member because Meg wasn’t there at the time,” he said. “I told them to contact her and have her come back to the hotel, but I didn’t tell them yet about the ring being found.”
Eade said Walls returned a short time later and he happily returned the lost ring to her. With a lot of perseverance and a little luck, the ring for which all hope of recovery was dwindling with each passing hour found its way back onto the finger of the delighted Walls.