BOLTON | For the first time in 40 years Jim and Jane Flynn can wear the matching wedding rings they exchanged more than half a century ago.
The couple honeymooned at Lake George after their 1960 wedding and Jim grew up summering in a rented cabin in Cleverdale. As they were starting their family, Jim, a radiation oncologist, had his residency in the New York City metropolitan area and the couple made Lake George their annual vacation spot, eventually buying a property at Basin Bay on the west side of the lake in 1976. Since then the lakeside summer home has become a gathering place for their family, including three daughters and two grandchildren.
But shortly after they bought the property, Jim lost his gold wedding band to the lake, an all too familiar story for many couples.
“Sure I was upset,” said Jane, now in her late 70s, as she sat in the screened-in porch overlooking the lake. “It felt like he lost a part of our marriage.”
Peggy Rodman’s family also has a longtime gathering place next to the Flynn’s property. Every August she and her husband and three children travel from Seattle to Lake George for a vacation.
“I’m always thinking I’m going to find something really neat and I always find golf balls, or nothing really exciting,” Rodman said. “I’ve found sunglasses, a swim mask, nothing exciting.”
For 19 years she’s kept her eye out for buried treasure in the underwater lost and found.
One day this August she saw a circle glimmering on the lake bottom. It looked like an overturned bottle cap, but with smooth edges.
“I grabbed it. It wasn’t deep. I could still stand there,” she said.
It was a gold ring with a thick band and a Christian wedding symbol engraved on the outside. On the inside were initials and a date — “2-6-60.”
Other than a mark that seemed to show the ring had been partially buried in the lake bottom, the ring was untouched, the inscriptions clear.
Rodman knew a neighbor, Paula Higgins Abele, lived there year-round, so she gave it to her to see if she could reunite it with the owner.
“We had a couple friends lose rings over the years,” Abele said.
She posted it on the “Lake George NY Boaters” Facebook page, but there were no bites. She kept the date inscribed on the inside of the ring secret so only the true owner could claim it. For two days she carried it with her.
Then on a whim she asked one of the Flynns’ daughters who was visiting whether anyone there had lost a ring
“Not unless it’s a really wide one,” Abele recalled as her response.
Jim and Jane Flynn, in their late 70s, live in Tulsa, Oklahoma now. Jim had gone back for work, but Jane was in Lake George with her daughters when Paula showed them the ring. She had an immediate reaction.
“When I showed it to Mrs. Flynn, she recited the initials exactly, and the date,” Abele said.
Jane put the ring on her finger and hugged it close like a long-lost love.
“It’s hard to believe it could have been in the sand all that time and just go unnoticed. Something must have kicked it up at just the right time,” Abele said.
Their daughter Cassie Flynn, of Albany, said the ring had been lost so long her parents had long given up on finding it.
Jim said he can’t remember how he lost it. The couple has newer wedding bands they wear now.
“I had long forgotten that I had lost it,” Jim said. “It showed it had been sitting in silt. I think the fact that Lake George is freshwater helped with the preservation. There were no corrosives obviously in the lake that would do harm to gold.”
Coincidentally, one of the couple’s first memories is of Jim losing a ring while swimming.
“When we were courting, it was in August of 1959, and Jane’s family had a house on a little lake in Northern New Jersey called Lake Packanack,” Jim said.
Jane, a young nurse at the time, said it was the first party she had planned. She forgot to put an RSVP request on the invitations. Strangely enough, only Jim showed up — the medical student who she cared for when he was hospitalized with a chest condition.
“She was dressed in this gorgeous bathing suit, I’m sure to catch my eye, which worked,” he said of the red-headed woman who would become his wife.
He decided to pretend he couldn’t swim.
“I was telling her I’m really deathly afraid of the water. I don’t know how to swim. I’m afraid I’m not buoyant. Would you mind holding my hand when I get into the water?,” Jim said.
But she told him no and said he shouldn’t be afraid. It was shallow and there were lifeguards.
So he dove in and “swam out at a fearsome rate,” he said.
He came back without his Notre Dame class ring, which he hasn’t seen since.
“That was one of our first encounters. That was sort of a harbinger of things to come,” Jim laughed.
When Rodman heard the story, she was mystified.
“To me, it’s the coolest thing that ever happened to me. I think it’s so neat someone can lose something so long ago and find it. I’m just glad he has the ring back,” Rodman said.
Jim and Jane are back in Oklahoma now where Jim continues his work as a radiation oncologist.
As to what they’ll do with the rings, “that’s up to the boss,” he said.
The ring story is symbolic of what he said seemed to be the key to their lasting relationship.
“I just lucked out. I picked a great gal,” he said.