SAN ANTONIO – Even after 54 years of marriage, something was missing. Karen Autenrieth lost her gold wedding band nearly a half century ago, heartbroken and resigned that she’d never see it again.
“When we got married in 1966, it was very popular to have matching bands, so that’s what we did,” she said.
They were classic gold bands with an inscription inside, “R.A. to K.B. April 16,1966.”
Robert Autenrieth’s ring still fits. Karen wears a lovely replacement made from the diamond from her engagement ring.
“That’s what she’s been wearing all this time,” Robert said.
Some 50 years ago, while living in Chicago, Karen lost her ring at her grandmother’s house.
“We were climbing through the snow drifts, and I was helping the three kids get into the car,” she recalled. “At some point in time, the hand went (this way) and the ring went into the snow bank.”
She searched for weeks, long after the snow had thawed.
“I resigned myself that it was gone,” she said. “I’d never see it again.”
Fast-forward a lifetime to a couple of weeks ago when a man in Chicago lost his wedding ring in the snow. He posted his plight on Facebook, starting a chain of serendipity. A neighbor commented that she’d actually found a wedding band some six to eight years ago while gardening at her home. Never able to find the owner, she’d hung on to it. The only clue was the engraving inside, “R.A. to K.B.”
Seeing the social media post, someone else tagged the Ridge Historical Society in Chicago and Carol Flynn to do some digging.
“I said, ‘Linda, do you want to look into this with me?’” Flynn said. “And, she was ‘hot-diggity!’”
Flynn and historian Linda Lamberty were on the case: Who were R.A. and K.B.?
“I started with a search of the address,” Flynn said. “We figured if it was found in the dirt while gardening, there was problem some connection to the house.”
They scoured public records and mined newspaper archives where they struck gold.
“I found this adorable article from 1955 of this gentleman, A.H. Witt,” she said. His address, the same as the woman who found the ring, was included in the article.
A continued search through genealogy and death records revealed Witt had a daughter named Claire Berk and she had a daughter named Karen. They thought they had found K.B.
Carol then found Karen on Facebook and sent a message.
“If she sees this message at all, she’s going to think, ‘Who is this lunatic writing a message at 2:30 in the morning about some ring that was found?’”
She wasn’t far off.
“I saw a message,” Karen said. “I don’t know any Carol Flynn, so I’m going to blow it off.”
Fortunately, she opened the strange message which said, “I don’t know if you’re the right person or not, but we found this ring.”
“I thought, ‘My God, 55 years, and we’re getting my ring back,” Karen said with tears filling her eyes.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Flynn had the ring delivered to its rightful owner.
“This was meant to happen,” Flynn said. “That ring wanted to get back to Karen.”
And so it did. Opening it in front of family, Karen’s eyes lit up and her hand trembled as her groom put the gold band back where it belonged. It was a gift and promise coming full circle.