Everything happens for a reason. That’s been my mantra for 2018, and this week I really felt it.
The garage of our North End home was crushed when several huge pine trees fell on it during a microburst this summer. Brett Fowler from Fowler Construction came to tear it down and haul away the remains recently.
In the weeks before we (or more accurately my husband, Bill Cote) cleaned out all the bikes, rakes and beach chairs that we wanted to keep.
But we didn’t spend much time digging through the crawl space above the rafters. We had purchased the house from my parents and didn’t think they would have left anything valuable up there.
As I left for work that morning an excavator was tearing into an upper corner of the garage. When I got home, pieces of the garage were waiting to be hauled away in a dumpster.
“We demolished that whole building. Most of it was in the dumpster,” said Fowler.
But as he was sweeping up the concrete slab where the garage once stood, Fowler saw something that he thought was a washer. It was actually a very shiny, almost new looking, woman’s gold wedding band engraved with “Oct. 22 – ’95.”
Ten minutes later, he was shocked to find a second ring that looked much older with a worn monogram on it.
He left them both for us, along with an old New Hampshire license plate.
“I knew it was part of your family, that house,” Fowler said when I asked why he didn’t just keep them. He was happy to be able to return the ring to someone who had been missing it. “I was more interested in the story than the ring.”
But no one in my family had ever seen this ring before, and the engraved date had no special meaning to us or our extended family members.
For a week I wore the ring, sharing the mystery with everyone I talked to.
Lots of people had theories about it. My sleuthy friend thought a thief looting the neighborhood had stolen it right before lifting a bike from our garage.
My father was sure it had been dropped by a clumsy guest at one of my unauthorized high school parties.
Or maybe the ring was much older than we thought.
David Fineblit of Pearson’s Jewelers on Elm Street confirmed my suspicions.
“This is 1895,” he said. “I can tell by the hallmark.”
The hallmark, he explained, is the 18K stamp certifying the amount of gold contained in the ring. A ring from 1995 would have a more modern hallmark than the one on the mystery ring.
And the engraving on the mystery ring, he said, was done by hand and not machine, another indication of age.
“I’ll go on record as saying the person who owned this ring is no longer with us,” Fineblit said.
My curiosity compelled me to visit Manchester City Archivist and Records Manager Michael Intranuovo in the basement of City Hall. He is the keeper of marriage, birth and death records going back to the 1840s.
“Before the city was a city,” he said.
Intranuovo plucked a very old bound book marked “Marriage Certificates. Original. 1895” from a large vault that used to be cells for city prisoners.
We carefully thumbed through the pages, looking for the name Morrison. That was the family that built our house in the early 1900s. My family bought the house from the estate of Dean Morrison, who in the 1980s was known by the children in the neighborhood as “The Candy Man” because he gave out candy bars all year long to any kids who knocked on his door.
I wasn’t too disappointed when we didn’t find any Morrisons married on Oct. 22, 1895. I already knew who the ring belonged to.
“How rare is it that I would find those. That they didn’t end up in the dumpster,” said Fowler. I called him yesterday to tell him how old the rings are, and he helped me determine the final piece of the mystery ring’s story.
“I used to do landscaping. Always thought I would find something. That’s the first time I found anything. ... And the crazy thing is, the date on that ring is Oct. 22, which is my anniversary,” he said.
If you’re reading this Ashley Fowler, I hope you were surprised with a shiny gold ring on Christmas.
Because everything happens for a reason.