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When an engagement ring goes missing, a local man steps in to help
Gina Hanner had no idea she'd dropped her wedding rings at the entrance to Holleybrooke subdivision in Spotsylvania.
SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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At a friend's house in King George County, he located Civil War-era buttons and bullets. At his brother's house, he found an 1896 Barber quarter with a picture of Lady Liberty stamped on it.
He joined a metal-detecting forum on Facebook, and in mid-March, one of the other members sent him a message: A woman had posted an ad on Craigslist saying she'd lost a ring in Spotsylvania. Did Ratcliffe want to help her out?
"I said, 'I grew up right around the corner from there. I know exactly where that is,'" said Ratcliffe.
So he contacted Hanner. Metal detecting on public property is prohibited in many communities, but Ratcliffe explained that if Hanner called the Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office and cleared the way for him, he'd be happy to drive out to Holleybrooke and look for the missing ring.
"It was a pure act of kindness," said Hanner. "It was just a great, kind outreach--'Hey, I have this tool. Why not put it to use?'"
As difficult as the search had been for Hanner, it was a snap for Ratcliffe.
"It was my first mission," said Ratcliffe. "I parked the car, got out, got the detector out and within 15 or 20 minutes had her diamond ring in my hand. I'm just happy I got it before they started cutting the grass."
The ring was well-hidden, but his detector homed right in on it, he said.
Ratcliffe first called Hanner with the good news. Then the father of three, who runs a furniture-refinishing business, took the bauble home to show his fiancee.
"I said, 'Don't get mad at me, honey, when I give this to another lady,'" he said.
Meanwhile, Hanner was shrieking with excitement. She left work early, drove to Fredericksburg and gave Ratcliffe a rib-crushing hug.
"I believe in karma and in doing good things," he said. "It was the best feeling in the world to give someone back something they lost."
Hanner said she's not taking any more chances with either of her rings.
"I'm going to solder these suckers onto my skin," she said, laughing.
Losing her engagement ring was awful, she said, but there was an upside: Her husband of three years felt so bad that she'd lost it reaching for his lighter that he gave up smoking.
Hanner said Ratcliffe's willingness to help a stranger is something she'll never forget.
"He was one of the nicest people I've ever met in my life. I actually started crying when I got it back," she said. "There really are good people left in the world."
Edie Gross: 540/374-5428