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[whitespace] Out of the sewer comes a long-missing diamond ring

Campbell--Sanitation worker Tony Cuevas may have had a huge smile on his face, but he certainly wasn't joking when he recently appeared at Anne Simpson's door holding her diamond ring.

The ring had been in a sewer pipe for a year and a half and was blackened and tarnished, but every diamond was intact and undamaged. After a thorough cleaning, it looked as good as new.

The ring was lost a year and a half ago, when Anne's husband Doug Simpson accidentally flushed it down the toilet on a night he says was one of the worst in his life.

Cuevas and some of his co-workers had originally tried to recover the ring then, but didn't find it.

"At first, we thought it was a joke," Anne says. "Who's going to remember for that long of a time?"

Doug says the accident happened at around 2 a.m. He was in the bathroom when his eye fell on a pink and white crocheted angel that was standing on the pink wicker shelf above the toilet.

Doug picked it up and found a black velvet jewelry box hidden under it. His wife, Anne, had decided to keep her most valuable jewelry under the angel after being robbed a year earlier, but had neglected to tell him.

After he flushed the toilet, Doug curiously opened the box and watched in horror as two of his wife's precious rings fell into the toilet.

"I just cannot believe what I did," he told his wife.

He tossed and turned all night long before calling the West Valley Sanitation District the next morning.

A half hour later, three large, white trucks pulled up and five men jumped out. They opened the manhole and began an exhaustive search for the rings. They found one of the rings, but not the other, which held much more sentimental value. The workers returned a week later for another search, but still found no ring.

"That was a special ring," Anne Simpson says. "It was from my former husband who died after three years of fighting cancer." After his death, she continued wearing the ring for years, until she remarried.

After learning that their insurance wouldn't cover the loss, the Simpsons were forced to come to terms with the fact that the ring was gone.

"My daughter was devastated," Anne says. "She had been waiting for me to give her the ring."

A year and a half later, the Simpsons were surprised to see those same white trucks pull up in front of their house. Cuevas had remembered the Simpsons, and every time he was in the area on a call, he enlisted his co-workers for another shot at helping out the damsel in distress.

"I know my mom's got some rings from her mother that she'd be pretty upset to lose," Cuevas said. "Out of heart, I just went ahead and stopped and always checked because you never know when it could turn up."

The Simpsons were touched by the extraordinary kindness displayed by Cuevas.

"We were so thrilled, we were just speechless," Anne says. "It was just above and beyond the call. They were wonderful. We're so grateful."

Perhaps the happiest person was Anne's daughter. After the loss of the ring, Simpson had given her daughter the beautiful, antique diamond ring that she wore.

When the original ring turned up, Anne asked her daughter, "'Do I get my ring back now?' and she said, 'Oh no mom, I get both of them,'" Simpson explains. "She was one happy gal."
Steven Raphael

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Web extra to the August 3-9, 2000 issue of Metro.

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