Found ring carried a part of owner's heart
Between bites of Golden Corral chicken-fried steak, Carol Fahrig suddenly put down her fork. She stared at her naked finger in horror.
The ring was gone; that much was certain.
She never took it off - not for laundry or dishes and especially not for a day of shopping in January with her daughter, Catherine Fahrig, 26.
Perhaps a morning moisturizer was to blame.
"I just couldn't believe it fell off my finger," Carol, 48, of Cuero, said.
Her husband, Wayne, had not left much behind when he died Sept. 27, 2009, at age 46.
Carol kept her wedding band tucked away in a jewelry box. A few years before Wayne's death her hands swelled so large, she had to cut it off.
Catherine said her mother took Wayne's death hard.
He worked long hours as a truck driver for Schumacher Energy Waste in Cuero but made it home by 7 every night.
He was a steak-and-potatoes, fried-eggs-and-bacon kind of guy who towered at 6-foot-2-inches and 579 pounds.
They met by chance in high school.
His cousin asked Carol to set Wayne up with one of her friends, but Wayne fell for her.
Carol was about 17 years old, and Wayne called all the time.
On their first date, he drove her to Victoria for dinner and a movie. Carol can't remember where they ate or what picture they saw; she was happy to be with him.
Their first kiss was at a bowling alley.
"It was good," Carol said. "We were good together."
When she was 19, they decided to marry, and they had their first child a year later.
"He took care of us," she said.
While Wayne worked sometimes 15-hour days driving, Carol stayed home and raised the three children.
When his health prevented him from working, he stayed home while she worked at a grocery store.
Carol said they made a good team.
They would have been married 30 years March 21.
The Christmas after Wayne's death, Catherine thought the sterling silver ring would be a perfect gift.
She found it online. A website called Limoges Jewelry, and had it inscribed with her parent's names and "always and forever" on the inside. The ring was set with two birthstones - aquamarine, for Wayne, and alexandrite, for Carol.
Catherine said it was not very expensive - about $100.
"I knew she'd love it," Catherine said.
For a while, Carol wore it on her ring finger.
She said she never took it off.
"It's just part of me - mine and his."
Around the end of February, Crystal Martinez, 29, of Victoria, pulled into the Hastings parking lot, glanced down and saw a sparkle.
It had been run over and was scratched up, it was missing some stones, but the two names - Carol and Wayne - were still legible.
"I figured it was pretty important to somebody," Martinez said. "I just figured I'd try to return it. ... I kind of figured it was a long shot."
She posted a blurb to Facebook and a buy, sell, trade website.
A couple of days passed and somebody responded.
Carol's best friends, Christy and Trey Schuenemann, of Cuero, saw the post online.
They helped Martinez contact Carol.
"I didn't know any of these people, so when they gave me her number, I asked her if she could tell me what the ring looked like," Martinez said. "That was really the only time we spoke. She gave me her address, and I mailed it to her."
The ring arrived March 2. It was beat up. Wayne's stone had been knocked out, and Carol's was crushed.
She took it to a jewelry store in Shiner to be repaired.
"I'm happy to have it back," she said. "Part of me has come back."
It was irreplaceable.
Carol said when the ring was returned, she got back a piece of her heart.
"It's a piece of me and him being together for so many years back on my finger," she said.