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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (10/2009) Headlines (08/2009) Headlines (12/2009)   Vol. 43 October 2009 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the October 2009 edition of W&ET Magazine


Hawaii resident Curt Carish boasts a timely fish tale; a 10-inch reef fish he caught by hand in shallow water coughed up a ticking gold watch.

Carish says he was enjoying a picnic recently on Port Allen beach when he saw the nenue fish awkwardly swimming close to shore.

He says a friend gave him a bamboo stick and told him to get the fish. So he jumped into the waist-high water and hit the nenue until it went limp.

He noticed the fish had an abnormally large belly as he tossed it into a cooler.

A friend opened the cooler later to discover a gold watch next to the fish's mouth.

Carish says the watch was ticking and keeping correct time.

From The Rapid City Journal, submitted by Jean Kary, Norris, SD.


Four soldiers who dug up a Second World War hoard were permitted to keep their booty. The four dug up a German army water bottle full of gold coins, a German uniform stuffed with banknotes, and several cans filled with money and jewelry during NATO exercises near Munich. At one point, the West German government claimed the discovery, arguing that since it was wrapped in a German army uniform, it was clearly government property.

From the Canadian Coin News, submitted by Daniel Finch, Halifax, NS.


Many of the more than 3,000 religious artifacts, books and antiquities found in a Berwyn bungalow after the owner's death two years ago were illegally removed from Italy and will be returned, the FBI said in a news release recently.

Italian immigrant John Sisto was known as a collector of art and rare books but the size and scope of the treasure his sons found in the 78-year-old widower's house on South Elmwood Avenue generated interest not only from his neighbors and other collectors but from the Italian government, Berwyn police and the FBI.

Recently, the FBI said in a news release, "Many of the items... were determined to have been removed illegally from Italy and will be repatriated to Italian authorities later." Authorities said they will display some of the items and provide more details about Sisto's collection in a news conference.

The FBI declined to comment substantively, and Sisto's two sons could not be reached for comment.

"The house was filled with old books...," said Berwyn Police Chief William Kushner "I am told that there are also papal documents dating back to the 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries."

Authorities have been researching the authenticity of the items and trying to determine how Sisto came to have them.

"We can't question a dead man," said Kushner. "We are just going to return the items to the Italian authorities."

Sisto was born in Bari, Italy, and came to the United States at age 29 in the late 1950s. After the items were discovered in his home in March 2007, the tidy brick bungalow was under constant protection by police for 15 days. FBI agents contacted Italian authorities, and agents specializing in stolen art were seen entering the home. When he lived in Chicago in 1958, Sisto told police that someone stole 72 rare books worth $40,000 from the basement of his home. Many of them were later recovered.

He told police the books were given to him by his father, a history and geography professor at the University of Bari.

From The Chicago Tribune, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


Just a case of plumb luck.

It took a plumber to retrieve a woman's 7-carat diamond ring after city workers failed in efforts to flush the gem out of the pipes of a restaurant toilet.

The $70,000 wedding ring fell from Allison Berry's hand when she flushed the toilet in the restroom of the Black Bear Diner, the plumber said. The ring plopped in and the water whisked it away, said Elena Castelar, the restaurant's shift manager.

City workers opened a pipe outside the restaurant and continuously flushed the toilet, hoping to push the ring out to the opening. When that didn't work, the city called the office in suburban Tempe of Mr. Rooter, a plumbing services franchise based in Waco, Texas.

"This is going to be like dredging for a treasure chest in the ocean," Mike Roberts, general manager of Mr. Rooter, said at the time.

Roberts guided a tiny video camera into the pipe with an infrared light attached. He eventually spotted the ring just three feet down and five feet over from where it was flushed.

Then it took an hour-and-a-half of jackhammering and pipe removal before Roberts and a technician could recover the ring, eight hours after it fell in the toilet.

"They always say diamonds are a girl's best friend. In this case, a plumber is a girl's best friend," Roberts said. "She was just so excited, she had tears in her eyes. She gave us a hug and said 'Thank you so much.'"

The Mr. Rooter bill came to $5,200 and the city's bill was $1,000.

Berry and her husband also tipped Roberts and the technician $400 each and gave $200 to a diner employee for staying late.

From the Napa Register, submitted by Jerry R. Hallett, Napa, CA.


It sounds like one of those amazing stories straight out of "Ripley's Believe It Or Not."

Jim Couture's Class of 1983 ring from Masuk High School in Monroe turned up last week at Seaside park in Bridgeport. He'd lost it 20 years earlier at Silver Sands State Park in Milford.

That's not even the most amazing part. Couture had moved to Florida a few years ago and hadn't kept up with a lot of former classmates in the area.

But since his 25th reunion is coming up, Couture's wife, Debbie, recently registered him at

Now try to keep up. The financial secretary at Masuk, who's been there 30 years and remembered Couture as a student, works another job alongside the Class of 1983 reunion chairwoman.

The two women were comparing lists of classmates when Delores Luckner, the Masuk High official, mentioned that someone had brought a ring to the school that turned up on an area beach. On it, the owner's initials were engraved- "J.C.C."

And since Couture's initials are the only J.C.C. on the list of the Masuk Class of '83, the women linked the ring to him.

They found Couture's email address on the website where his wife had registered him, and soon the ring was winging its way south.

Like virtually every other moment in this digital world, both personal and profound, the whole thing was captured on video and posted to YouTube. It can be viewed at:

"I lost it in the spring of 1989, and I hadn't really thought much about it since then," Couture said in a telephone interview. "But I was thrilled to have it back."

Debbie Couture said her husband told her that he lost the ring during a romantic interlude on the beach in Milford.

"He took it off and put it in his pants pocket and it must have fallen out. He wasn't with me, this was before we met," the Monroe native's wife said. "But he couldn't tell his mother about it, because she paid for it and it was an expensive ring."

The ring was found by Derby resident Lorraine Zuba during a recent visit to Seaside Park in Bridgeport, about 15 miles west of where it was lost. She was patrolling the sand with her metal detector when she heard a loud ping and started digging, the Coutures said.

Zuba, a retired music teacher, said she frequently finds old coins and has found rings, but schools are often reluctant to give out information to help locate the owner. In this case, she said, she drove to Monroe, found Couture's photo in the Masuk yearbook and asked Luckner to send him her email address.

"He called me and I arranged to send him the ring," Zuba said. "I told him all I wanted was a photo of him wearing it."

Zuba's husband, Henry, said his wife makes regular trips to area beaches with her metal detector. "Once she found a double wedding band. There was no name in it. We figure they must have had an argument or something."

Apparently, the years buried in the sand were good for the platinum-plated ring.

"It looks amazing," Debbie Couture said. "It just had a small dent that the jeweler took out, and it has to be resized."

Luckner said that her job at Masuk High includes keeping class lists, graduation programs and other records, so she was already working on the reunion.

From the Connecticut Post, submitted by Michael Nazarawh, Milford, CT.


Archaeologists have found two Confederate gunboat cannons in the Pee Dee River in Marion County, S.C., using ground-penetrating radar. The cannons allowed the University of South Carolina researchers to determine where the Mars Bluff Naval Yard once stood. The archaeologists, Christopher Amer and Jon Leader, raised three cannons, weighing about five tons, that used to be onboard the CSS Pee Dee, a 150-foot Macon-class gunboat built at Mars Bluff. The cannons were thrown overboard as Gen. William Sherman's Union troops headed toward Marion County.

The researchers, along with several students, are digging pits down to the Pleistocene layer to try to find where the old buildings once stood. The shipyard was a Confederate stronghold from 1862 to 1865. "The artifacts recovered to date provide us with a tantalizing glimpse into past lifeways at the site," Amer said. "[They] remind us of a time in this nation's history when, in the face of advancing overwhelming odds, the Confederate officers, sailors and workmen at the only inland Confederate naval shipyard in South Carolina, along with the local community, gave it their best shot."

From the Air Force Times, submitted by David M. Wolan.


A treasured 18th Century Gagliano violin stolen from a North Side woman has been recovered at an instrument shop in the shadow of Orchestra Hall- with a little haggling.

One day after the instrument was reported stolen, a well-dressed man "with a nice smile" walked into Jim Sherry's narrow shop full of guitars and violins with an offer.

"I just don't play this," Sherry, owner of Sherry-Brener Ltd., quoted the man as telling him. "I want to sell this."

Sherry had already received a call about the theft from the violin's owner, Lori Ashikawa, but he just wasn't sure it was the right violin, he said from his shop on South Michigan Avenue.

So he haggled with the man, negotiating the price of the instrument- which one expert said could be worth $100,000- from an original asking price of $500 to $150, he said.

It wasn't until the next day when Sherry's employee opened an email from Ashikawa- with photos- that he recognized that the violin belonged to Ashikawa, he said.

Sherry called her and told her to bring the police and identification to prove ownership. They showed up at the shop a short time later.

A case and bows belonging to Ashikawa also were recovered, Chicago police said. No one was in custody at press time, and the theft remained under investigation.

Sherry said he did not keep a receipt.

From the Chicago Tribune, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


Famed sculptor Lorado Taft died in his Chicago studio in 1936 while working on a piece he planned to call "Aspiration," leaving behind just a photo of a plaster model.

Or so experts thought.

Taft, it turns out, had cast a 14.5-inch bronze version of the sculpture. It recently found its way to eBay, where a Taft historian spotted it.

It was bought for $2,275 and is now bound for the public library in Downstate Oregon, a town that already boasts some of Taft's works.

"It's a perfect fit for this community," Oregon Library Board President Terry Schuster said. "With our ties to art and to Lorado Taft, to actually have the last piece he worked on is priceless."

Taft had been commissioned to sculpt "Aspiration" as a 10-foot marble statue to adorn a grave.

From the Chicago Sun Times, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


Archaeologists have found five well-preserved Roman shipwrecks deep under the sea off a small Mediterranean island, with their cargo of vases, pots and other objects largely intact, officials said.

The ships are submerged about 330 to 490 feet off Ventotene, a tiny island that is part of an archipelago off Italy's west coast between Rome and Naples.

The ships, which date from between the 1st Century B.C., and the 4th Century A.D., carried amphorae- vases used for holding wine, olive oil and other products- as well as kitchen tools and metal and glass objects that have yet to be identified, Italy's Culture Ministry said.

The ships sank without capsizing, allowing researchers to observe their cargo largely as it had been loaded, the ministry's Annalisa Zarattini said.

From the Chicago Tribune, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.


The National Archives added a letter written by President Abraham Lincoln to his Treasury secretary to its collection recently.

Lincoln wrote it to help an ousted U.S. Mint director, whom he had appointed as a favor to Oregon Sen. Edward Baker. "It shows his interest, even in the midst of the Civil War, in political issues on the West Coast," said James Hastings of the Archives.

From the Chicago Sun-Times, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.

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