SOUTH PORTLAND — When Wendyellen Caisse and her fiance, Bob Young, realized that her engagement ring had been lost somewhere in Mill Creek Park, the high school sweethearts assumed it was gone forever.
No one, they reasoned, would pick up an antique 2-karat diamond ring and try to return it to its owner.
The two were walking in the park on Feb. 18 when Caisse realized the largest of three diamonds on the ring was coming loose. Young offered to take it to a jeweler, and put it in his pocket.
On Sunday, they realized the ring was gone.
“We were going crazy,” Young said. “We tore the house apart, and my truck, looking for it.”
The couple wasn’t going to let the ring go without a fight. They rented a metal detector and walked through the park over and over again. But when nothing turned up, they accepted defeat.
Caisse, a marketing agent, and Young, an architect, have been engaged since New Year’s Eve. They were in Connecticut, where they first dated in high school, to visit family for the holidays when Young, 47, proposed to Caisse on a stone bridge over a small stream.
Caisse, 44, collects antiques, and has a taste for vintage goods. The couple’s home on Mosher Street is full of estate furniture and century-old photographs.
The ring Young proposed with was about 100 years old, in a style not often seen.
“I had been carrying the ring for five days,” Young said. “I checked it every day to make sure I still had it.”
“He knows my taste and knew I would have wanted something older,” Caisse said. “The ring was perfect.”
And apparently, hard to lose.
On Feb. 21, after Young had reported the lost ring to the South Portland Police Department, the couple got a call from evidence technician Mark Carlton of the SPPD.
Carlton asked the couple for a description of the ring, and whether it had any inscriptions. He asked the couple to bring in a photo of the ring if they had one, which they did.
Caisse said she didn’t think much of it.
“The whole time there, I thought he just wanted a picture in case it came in,” she said. “But I was praying the whole way. I wasn’t ready to accept that it could have been found.”
It turns out the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club had been in the park prepping for its Winter Festival when a volunteer found the ring and turned it in to Daniel Mooers, the festival’s organizer. Mooers alerted City Manager Jim Gailey, who notified Police Chief Ed Googins, who passed the word – and the ring – to Carlton.
“By the time I could get in touch with (Mooers), (Young) had already contacted me,” Carlton said this week. “It wasn’t a stretch to put two and two together.”
When the couple arrived at the police department, Carlton examined their photo. Then he retrieved the ring and asked, “Is this yours?”
Carlton simply said the couple was “relieved,” but Young tells the story differently.
“I dropped to my knees,” he said. “I said there must still be some good people out there.”
Carlton said that when high-value items, like engagement rings, are turned in to police, they’re often returned to their owners because those owners are looking for them.
Caisse and Young said getting the ring back restored their faith in humanity. They mused about whether the ring’s former owner, whoever she was, helped guide the ring back where it belonged.
“Someone, somewhere, knew how much it would mean to me to have it back,” Caisse said.
The couple said they haven’t set a date for their wedding. They’re busy now trying to find a home big enough to accomodate them, their dog and their two cats.
As for the ring, the first thing Caisse did when she got it back was go to a jeweler to have it fixed, so she’ll never have to take it off again.
Bob Young and Wendy Caisse.
Wendyellen Caisse’s 2-karat engagement ring, which was lost in Mill Creek Park in February, but returned to Caisse and her fiance, Bob Young, after it was found by a volunteer for the South Portland Winter Festival.