The Value Of Self-Respect
By: Ed Tisdale
Labor Day weekend 2001 at Fort Myers Beach was like almost all
other Labor Day weekends here in beautiful southwest Florida. Hundreds of
people were enjoying bright sunshine, temperatures in the mid to upper 80s,
and a pleasant breeze offshore in the morning, on shore in the afternoon.
The beach had been replenished several months earlier, leaving a wide, dry
sand area and hundreds of feet of shallow water with sugar-soft sand.
Dr. Ram Krishnan was enjoying the holiday with his family,
including his cousin, also a doctor, visiting from California. Everyone
was having a wonderful time until the cousin's custom-made gold ring with
diamonds flew off his finger as he was tossing a ball back and forth in
knee-deep water. The entire family searched unsuccessfully for the ring
for several hours. The ring was much too valuable to just forget about.
Help was needed to find it.
Dr. Krishnan looked in the yellow pages for a place to rent a metal
detector and called our store for help. We assured him that we had the
rental equipment he needed. We also explained our lost item search &
recovery service that benefits the Cape Coral Police Department's "Do The
Right Thing" program. This program recognizes and rewards area youth for
doing the right thing, which many times isn't the most popular thing to do
among their peers.
If a person needs help finding a lost metal object, we ask a
trusted volunteer detectorist to perform the search. All we ask for our
service is a donation check made out to "CCPD Do the Right Thing Program,"
regardless of whether we find the item or not. Typically, we ask for a
minimum of $25 here in our city, and $50 if we must travel farther away and
pay tolls to reach the coastal islands. Several times we have had to
revisit a site more than once in order to find the item or assure ourselves
that the site is not where the item was actually lost. Since our program's
inception several years ago, we have recovered and returned about $200,000
worth of jewelry, as well as several sets of vehicle/house keys, and have
found property stakes for homeowners wanting to install fences or
underground yard irrigation systems. Naturally, it's a real thrill to
locate someone's lost item, but what we enjoy the most is the expressions
of joy we see from people when we return their valuables. We have seen
plenty of joyful tears and have been given quite a few warm hugs.
After talking with the doctor, we decided to contact Chuck Fedora.
Chuck's detecting arsenal includes a water detector, and he has recovered
and returned items several times before. The next day, Chuck met Dr.
Krishnan at the beach and was shown a fairly small area in which the ring
was most likely lost. Sadly, Chuck reported back to me that after 5-1/2
hours of searching, he had not located the lost ring.
Chuck said that the doctor told him he had asked a concession stand
operator on the beach pier if he knew of anyone who might be able to help
him look for the ring. The man replied that he would help look with his
detector that night after work. Chuck suspected one of three things had
happened: some other detectorist had already found the ring, the man in
the concession stand had located the ring but not yet told the doctor, or
the ring had dropped through the sand, beyond the range of his detector.
Chuck also noted that he had never before seen sand so deep and
soft at Fort Myers Beach. Just standing motionless in knee-deep water, he
would sink into the sand well past his ankles. He tested the depth of the
soft sand to the hardpan below and had found it to be too deep in most
places for his equipment.
As we talked, Chuck handed me a check made out to the CCPD DTRT
program for $51 from Dr. Krishnan. For the next few weeks, Chuck and
several others of us from our volunteer group, concentrated much of our
limited detecting time trying to locate the doctor's ring, as well as a
$12,000 engagement ring lost less than 200 yards away. Despite our best
efforts, we finally gave up any realistic hope of finding either of the two
In May of 2002, I was visited by Henry Ludwig, a metal detector
customer of ours, who had come in to make the final payment on a used
machine he had purchased from us and to show me his finds from the past few
months. Henry is in his mid 20's and works as a server at a restaurant on
Sanibel Island. He spends all his free time detecting. If there is a low
tide, day or night, and if he's not scheduled to work, you can bet Henry
will be working the water at one of the area beaches. He finds the hobby
relaxing and likes the fact that it will generally pay for itself with the
coins and jewelry he recovers.
Henry showed me a few nice wedding bands, a couple of attractive
bracelets and necklaces, and some other rings that were fun to find but had
little intrinsic value. After I congratulated him, he said "Wait, that's
not all· I've saved the best for last. Look what I found at three this
morning. I just had a jeweler friend look at it, and he says it's worth
well over $4,000! He said it was custom made, likely in India and is 22K
gold with nine diamonds totaling at least 1-1/2 carats. I couldn't believe
it when I saw it at home in the light. I knew early this morning that I
had found a gold ring, but it was so dark I couldn't see it very well."
Upon seeing the ring, I told Henry, "Don't say a word. Let me guess
where you found that ring. I bet you found it in knee-deep water at the
right side of the pier at Fort Myers Beach, right in front of where the
flag pole is located."
He replied, "I guess that means you know who lost it."
"I'm not sure," I told Henry, "but about nine months ago, right
after Labor Day weekend, we were asked to search for a ring that was
described to be like the one you found." I then went to the computer file
where we keep a record of the donations made to the CCPD DTRT program,
along with photos of items we've recovered. I printed out the letter with
Dr. Krishnan's contact information. I explained that Chuck Fedora had
hunted for the ring last year but was unable to locate it, probably due to
the deep sand.
Henry told me that the storm we had the prior weekend had removed a
lot of sand from the pier area, and it was now only a few inches to a foot
deep in most places before reaching the hardpan.
I handed the letter to Henry and told him that if he wanted to find
out whether it was the doctor's cousin's ring, here was where he should
start. Henry thanked me and left the store- not smiling as much as when he
came in. Although he didn't say so, I could tell that Henry was beginning
the tough mental battle of conscience· "Should I try to find the owner and
return the ring or not? I really could use the money if I sold it," etc.
The next day, I received a call from Dr. Krishnan, asking if I knew
a man named Henry. He said that Henry had called, "wanting a description
of my cousin's ring that had been lost, and said he thought he had found
it. He wants to meet me in your store on Saturday at noon to return the
ring to me. What do you think he wants for returning it?"
I told the doctor Henry probably would appreciate a thank-you.
The doctor replied, "If it's my cousins ring, I'll give him more
than that, and so will my cousin!"
I then told the doctor about Henry's employment and how much he
enjoys the hobby of metal detecting.
Since Chuck Fedora was the first one to hunt for the ring, I
invited him to join Henry when he gave it back to Dr. Krishnan. Before the
doctor left, he handed Henry a check and said a nicer one would be sent by
his cousin. Henry didn't even look at the check. He just folded it and
put it in his pocket.
Henry then turned to his friend, who came with him to return the
ring, and said, "I know you think I'm really stupid for returning the ring
instead of selling it, but you know, right now I feel pretty darn good
about myself. I've never had the opportunity to do something like this
before. I'm not even going to look at the check right now. I know it's
for less than the ring would have brought me, but that doesn't matter."
We gave Henry a photo certificate showing the ring, stating its
value, and attesting that Henry had returned it to its rightful owner.
Hopefully, Henry will be able to look at that photo every day and remind
himself of what a great person his hobby and his actions have proved him to
Unless you have had a similar experience, you'll never realize- at
least, not in the way Henry does- that self-respect is so much more
valuable and long lasting than a short-term cash gain. Fortunately, there
are thousands of detectorists who take a great deal of pleasure and pride
in using their detecting skills to help others. I hope you'll always be
one of them!
ED TISDALE, is a freelance contributor to W&ET, author of the book Metal
Detecting for Beginners - How to Get Started Correctly, an avid
detectorist, a White's Electronics dealer, and owner of Family Hardware in
Cape Coral, Florida. E-mail: Famhard@aol.com