DERRY— What started off as a routine shopping trip to Walmart, nearly turned into disaster for Elaine Hodnett.
The Derry resident was buying cat litter March 4 when she felt something was off.
“Both my wedding and engagement rings were gone,” she said. “It was a feeling of utter, profound devastation.”
But just a half hour later, both rings were back in her possession with the help of an eagle-eyed customer and some Walmart employees. Hodnett estimated the pink sapphire and white diamond rings were valued at $5,000.
“I was just absolutely astonished to get them back,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
When Hodnett, 52, noticed her rings were gone, she went right to the customer service desk to report them missing. After employees told her that nothing had been turned in, she thought all hope was lost.
“I had thought the odds were slim to none I’d ever see them again,” Hodnett said. “I thought they were bound for a pawn shop.”
Hodnett continued shopping, but began kicking herself for something. Hodnett has recently lost a lot of weight and had just finished up a diet class before she headed to Walmart. At the class, the topic of her rings came up.
“We were talking about the fact that our rings were all too loose,” she said. “I was going to make an appointment with the jeweler to get them resized.”
She began to retrace her steps. She dug through the recycling she had just dropped off and walked back to the parking lot looking for the rings.
She went back into the store, did her shopping, then returned to the customer service desk, hoping for the best. While she waited in line, she overheard part of the employees’ conversation.
“I saw the floor manager saying, ‘We have to call her since she was so devastated,’” Hodnett said.
She yelled to get the employees’ attention and ran to the front of the line, where the employees handed over her rings.
An assistant manager at the Derry Walmart said she could not comment.
Hodnett was overjoyed, but the first thing she wanted to know was who found the rings.
“I wanted to not only thank them, but reward them,” she said.
But none of the employees knew. The man didn’t give his name.
“All I know was that he was smoking outside in the parking lot,” Hodnett said.
The employees told Hodnett the man came back into the store with one ring. But when they told him that Hodnett had reported two rings missing, he went back to look for the other one.
“He then went back out to the parking lot, found the other ring and turned the second ring in,” Hodnett said.
When Hodnett returned home and told husband Steve what happened, he said he would have replaced the rings, but that would not have meant as much to his wife.
“The sentimental value of these rings are far greater than the price value,” she said. “This signifies the moments we knew we were meant to be together.”
Elaine and Steve will be going to the Bahamas in July to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. On her hand will be two properly fitting rings.
“I made an appointment with Jared (jewelers) to get them resized right away,” she said.
Since the incident, Hodnett has returned to Walmart several times in search of something — finding the hero who found her rings.
She has spoken to walmart managers, but hasn’t been able to identify the man or the employees who helped her find her rings.
“That type of integrity and honesty is rare these days,” she said. “I really am desperate to be able to find out who this was so I can thank him and reward him.”