What strangers did to get suburban woman her wedding ring back
The case of a valuable lost ring was solved quickly, but the hunt for the frantic owner showed a spirit of caring and cooperation.
From the joggers who found and brought it to a resourceful forest preserve ranger to a determined local jewelry store manager and helpful shopkeeper in New Hampshire, several people helped reunite a Libertyville-area woman with her wedding/engagement ring set.
"It's a really crazy story," said Anne Marie Marker, manager of Rolland's Jewelers in Libertyville. "Everybody did the right thing."
The quick resolution to a lost-and-found tale that began Thanksgiving also gave native New Yorker Lane Gillenwater a sense of what her new community was made of.
"It's like the day of gratitude and people are being so wonderful," she said. "It's an emotional experience."
Lane and her husband, Collin, met in Albany, New York, and were married in August 2016. He works at Southern New Hampshire University, and when Lane, a medical student, landed a residency at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, the couple bought a house in a neighborhood off Route 137 near the Independence Grove Forest Preserve.
They were entertaining their mothers for the holiday and decided to get some exercise before dinner.
"Before the big meal that was to come, we decided to go to Independence Grove for a quick run," said Collin, who grew up in Wauconda.
Lane had her engagement ring/wedding band set in a specially made ring holder on a necklace and tucked into her shirt.
"I've used it for many years to hold my ring and it's never been a problem," she said.
The main diamond on the ring was cut around 1900 and belonged to her grandmother, elevating it to another level of value.
Collin said he knew something was wrong in the car after the run.
"She gave me a panicked look," he said. "I started walking down the trail with my head down. We looked for a few hours. She was, as you can imagine, pretty upset."
They thought the ring was lost on the Des Plaines River Trail but were not certain. So they scoured their house and posted a notice on a neighborhood website.
Lane said she didn't want to ruin the holiday for others by being upset.
"I was very hopeful it was a good person who would find it and not take it to a pawnshop," she said.
That afternoon, Grayslake resident Terry Van Vleet was about a third of the way into a 6-mile run with his daughter, Madison, who was training for a half marathon. Terry said he missed it, but Madison saw something shiny that seemed out of place.
"It was just sitting on the side of the trail. It was sad to think someone could have lost something important to them and didn't know where," Madison said.
Finding no one available at the forest preserve on the holiday, they took the ring home for safekeeping and connected Friday morning with forest preserve ranger Erik Tjarksen at Independence Grove.
Tjarksen, a 26-year veteran, said he has dealt with found items such as cellphones, but nothing of this size or value. He found no evidence the ring had been reported stolen but noted the manufacturer's name and a serial number inside the band.
He determined Rolland's Jewelers carried the brand and took it to the store in downtown Libertyville.
"I figured now we have something to start with. If they have a record, hopefully they'll have a name as well," he said.
That sparked a round of calls by Rolland's Marker, first to the manufacturer, Gabriel & Co. in New York, with the serial number. She learned Rolland's had not sold it. Another call to Gabriel & Co. produced an invoice number and the name of the seller -- Bellman Jewelers Inc. in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Customer information is confidential, so Marker asked the Bellman Jewelers staff to call the customers and tell them to contact her.
The Gillenwaters returned to Independence Grove at sunup Friday and spent hours searching for the ring with no luck. Lane had patients to see and went to work.
Collin was shopping late Friday when he got a call from a New Hampshire number.
"I thought it was my boss calling. I thought I was supposed to be at work," he said. "I didn't even connect all the pieces. I said, 'Stop, this is about the ring?' I didn't believe that connection was made. It's truly wild."
Tjarksen returned it to the couple Saturday morning.
"She was rather emotional to say the least," Tjarksen said.
Terry Van Vleet was happy with the outcome.
"It took a lot of people to kind of connect all the dots. We're just glad it turned out well."
Lane Gillenwater said she is going to be more careful.
"I'm keeping it on my finger," she said. "I'm running with a closed fist."