A mother’s ring engraved with the names of her six children finally found its way back to her family nine years after it was lost at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
Velma Wickens-VanDenDungen, 74, of Red Deer, died at the hospital in December 2010. Her children gave her the family birthstone ring on her birthday about a month earlier, featuring their names and six stones.
Three of her children, who were in their 50s, have since died in the past five years.
The Red Deer Regional Health Foundation recently tracked down Kelley Arnold, one of the daughters, to return the ring.
Arnold said seeing the ring again brought back overwhelming memories of her mother and siblings.
“It was just a beautiful reminder of family, and almost a message from my mom that she’s watching over us. There’s been so much tragedy in our family,” said Arnold, whose sister Lucy Wickens almost died at Easter.
Arnold’s twin, Kimberly Wickens, said recovering the ring was like their mom was cheering on her and her sisters.
“My mom always wanted us to stick together and support one another. Being aboriginal, we face lots of challenges in our lives and we’ve overcome them and will continue to overcome them,” said Wickens.
She said the miraculous recovery of the ring also came as the sisters celebrate family successes. Wickens’ daughter has graduated from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology with a legal assistant diploma. Arnold’s son will soon graduate to become an RCMP officer.
Both sisters were astounded that the ring was found after so long.
“We argued about what happened to the ring so many times through the years,” Arnold said with a laugh, “and never knew what had become of it.”
Manon Therriault, CEO at the Red Deer Regional Health Foundation, said hospital security had a box with a collection of mostly costume jewelry left behind or lost at the facility in the past few years.
The items either belonged to people who died with no next of kin, or were lost and not retrieved by the owners.
She said security passed the jewelry on to the foundation on May 31 to be converted to cash to buy equipment for the hospital.
“Once we came across the ring, we knew there was no way we could just give it away without doing some research,” Therriault said.
The same day the jewelry arrived at the foundation, Therriault and staff were able to identify the mother through obituaries after a two-hour internet search.
Through Facebook, they contacted Arnold, who called the foundation within half an hour. She happened to be near the hospital, and about five minutes later, had the ring in her hands.
Arnold said the recovery of the ring was a reminder that people care.
“This small group of people that didn’t even know us, didn’t know my mother, felt the need to put all the effort they did into finding us. That’s rare. It was such a beautiful gift they’ve given us,” Arnold said.
Therriault said the foundation often encounters patients who are grateful for the work it does to make sure the hospital has the equipment it needs. It was nice to meet another grateful family, this time, because of a lost ring.