The first thing Eileen Korey noticed when she got into the car that Wednesday afternoon in early May was a small diamond ring in the tray between the front seats.

It hadn’t been there before.

Weeks earlier, she had taken the car in to have the airbag replaced as part of a nationwide recall. The Subaru Outback belonged to her daughter and son-in-law and she was helping them out.

Now she was picking it up. That’s when she saw the sparkler.

Korey, 64, of Lake Oswego quickly sent a text to her daughter and son-in-law to ask if they were missing a diamond ring or if any of their friends had reported losing a ring.

They both wrote back, saying they had no idea what she was talking about.

Korey took the ring to the service desk at Wilsonville Subaru to ask if any women technicians might have left a ring in the car while they were working on it. The woman behind the counter said only men worked on the cars.

Korey asked if the desk clerk could get information from the guy who had replaced the airbag. Over a two-way radio, Daniel Hedlt said he’d placed the ring in the tray when it dropped to the car’s floor after he opened up the dash trim and steering column to replace the airbag. He was not sure how it got there, saying he typically finds only change.

Not sure what to do, Korey left the dealer, the ring back in the tray.

She knew a friend who was a jeweler and stopped to have her look at the ring to see if it was real.

Her friend said the diamond, set in a white gold band, was worth $1,200 and Korey could easily sell it for $500.

Standing there, Korey knew she could use the money to pay off some bills.

But she wouldn’t sell it.

All because of the diamond ring on her own finger.

***

Korey’s in-laws were Holocaust survivors who had escaped to the United States after World War II. They settled in New York in 1951 and worked in the textile industry.

What they’d experienced overseas had forever shaped their lives. The couple never forgot the horror, the fear of losing everything. When they saved some money, not easy to do raising two boys, they went to a jeweler friend and bought two unset diamonds. They believed it wise to have something of value they could carry with them in case they ever had to flee again.

They didn’t reveal the story or the diamonds until their oldest son came home to say he had fallen in love. He planned to propose and marry a wonderful woman.

His mother left the room.

She returned with a package. She showed her son the two diamonds and told him to pick one.

Use it for the engagement ring, she said.

Her son should slip the ring over his intended’s finger as a way to show the world his commitment with a treasure that had such meaning and family history.

In her Lake Oswego home, Korey looked at the diamond ring she has worn since 1977.

In her other hand, she held the ring she’d found in the car.

Korey’s ring was three times larger.

One, though, wasn’t more precious than the other.

Love, after all, is love.

Korey vowed to find this ring’s true owner.

***

Three days after finding the ring, Korey rummaged through the car’s glove box to look for clues.

There, she found paperwork showing the name of the dealership, Carr Subaru in Beaverton, that sold the car new to its first owner in 2014.

Then she found the name of the original salesman.

Korey called.

The salesman who answered the phone said that salesman no longer worked for the company.

Korey explained why she was calling and recited the car’s long vehicle identification number to see if he could help. The message was passed on to the sales manager. He used the VIN number to track down the car’s original owner.

Then, searching through old company records, he found a telephone number for Daniel Hannah.

The manager identified himself on the phone and asked Hannah how his car was working out.

Hannah was confused. He was on his third Subaru.

But did Hannah buy one of those Subarus from Carr?

Yes, he had. Though he sold it years ago.

One more question: Had he ever lost an engagement ring?

***

Hannah, now 37, met Ashleigh, now 33, while they both played in a coed softball league in Portland.

They planned to get married, but first saved to buy a house. Once that purchase was completed, they went to a jewelry store and picked out an engagement ring they could afford, one Hannah described as small but sentimental.

About three years after the wedding, Ashleigh gave birth to Easton. During the pregnancy, her fingers were so swollen that she had to stop wearing her wedding band and engagement ring.

She missed them.

Three months after the delivery, she tried slipping them over her finger, but they wouldn’t go past the knuckle.

No matter, they belonged on her finger.

One Sunday afternoon, they were driving to an event in their Subaru but had to stop at the bank and use the ATM machine. Ashleigh, showing her husband where to turn, gestured wildly with her left hand and felt both rings slip off.

They found the wedding band on the floor of the car.

The engagement ring was gone.

They figured it fell out the open driver’s side window. They searched the bank parking lot for an hour.

Nothing.

Later, back at home, Hannah searched through the Subaru for hours.

Nothing.

Years later, Hannah bought his wife a much larger engagement ring.

They had a second son.

Truth was, the couple had forgotten about the missing ring.

And then, two weeks ago, a sales manager called.

He told Hannah that a woman had found the ring in his old Subaru, but was not sure how it had ended up behind the dash. He gave Hannah her cell number. Hannah called Korey. They made a date to meet.

***

On the big day, Korey searched through her closet and selected an elegant silk ring pouch. She slipped the found ring inside and waited for Hannah to arrive at her Lake Oswego home.

She answered the door and thought Hannah seemed shy. She figured he assumed she was going to ask for a reward. To put him at ease, she invited him in and they sat at the dining room table where she shared her detective work. Her daughter and son-in-law had bought the car used from Carr Subaru in 2015.

She handed him the pouch.

Hannah opened it and held the ring in his hand.

That’s it.

Korey wanted to know what Hannah’s wife thought about getting the ring back.

He said he hadn’t told her, planning to surprise her with it on Mother’s Day

Korey had one request: She wanted Hannah to send her a photo the moment Ashleigh opened her gift.

Deal.

***

On Sunday, Ashleigh Hannah sat on some steps inside the couple’s home and 5-year-old Easton brought over a small pouch.

She opened it.

A woman never forgets a special ring.

She slipped it on her finger.

It didn’t fit.

Her new engagement ring was larger.

It didn’t matter.

She plans to make that first ring into a pendant to wear around her neck.

Love, after all, is love.

And you can never have too much of it.

–Tom Hallman Jr.

thallman@oregonian.com 503 221-8224

@thallmanjr



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