Lost wedding ring found 55 years after tragic plane crash

Dec 8, 2014 at 12:30 p.m. ET

There are few pieces of jewelry more precious than a wedding ring and when a parent dies, there are few heirlooms more important to their child. For Joyce Wharton of Washington state, it took almost 60 years for her to get her mother's ring back after a mysterious plane crash. But this past week, that's exactly what happened.

Wharton lost her parents in 1959 when their plane was lost somewhere between Seattle and Portland. It took a decade to find the wreckage.

Think about that: 1959. Almost 60 years ago. An entire lifetime of children, marriage, grandchildren and even a cross country move. Wharton now lives in Wayne, New Jersey. Little did she know, in 1997, a logger working out in the woods found the ring. Unlike many, he never considered the ring his. He didn't do the whole "finders keepers" thing. Instead, he spent the next few years trying to find its owner. He used Ancestry.com where he finally struck pay dirt. This past week he returned it.

"My mouth was open," Wharton says. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing... It restores your faith in human nature. The last time I saw this ring, my mother was wearing it 55 years ago. That's my Christmas miracle."

It's hard to imagine a more meaningful thing that could come from the wreckage. Having lost my own mother at 16, I know when my sister and I were dividing her jewelry, there was nothing more important to me than her wedding ring. It's not about the money. It's about the memories. I remember it on my mother's finger. I remember what it looked like when it was hers. And when I remember that, I also remember her.

I know I plan on giving my set to one of my daughters. Of course, it has just occurred to me that I have two daughters. So what happens then? Does the older daughter automatically get the ring? How do families decide these things?

One thing is for sure, no one is fighting over the family heirloom here. It seems like fate or the universe had a higher plan. No one would ever argue with that. See the story below:

More on wedding rings

Unique engagement rings without diamonds
How to clean jewelry at home
Best eco-friendly diamonds