The grass around the bus stop bench was thick and overgrown, the long blades scratching Mary Marzec's legs. So with one brisk motion, the 88-year-old woman swatted the grass away from her knees — and accidentally flung her wedding ring into the field along Embassy Boulevard. The diamond-studded gold ring, which Mrs. Marzec had worn for nearly 60 years, had loosened as her fingers shrank with age. Now she was on her knees, patting the earth, praying to find her ring. She went into a nearby Chevron station and borrowed a pair of scissors. Then she got back on her knees and chopped away at the grass, crying, hoping. But she couldn't find it.
"My husband said, 'Come on, let's go home. I'll buy you another one,' " Mrs. Marzec recalled. "I said, 'I'm not going until I find my ring!' "
• • •
Mary and Ed Marzec led parallel lives for years before they'd met.
Both were born in Detroit to Polish parents. Both went back to the old country as small children. Both returned to America in 1937, two years before Hitler invaded Poland.
Mary was 19, living with her sister in New York City, when a mutual friend introduced her to Ed, a laborer who was four years her senior.
Four months later they married.
"My sister said, 'What are you doing? You don't know how to cook. You don't know how to do anything,' " Mrs. Marzec said. "But I said, 'Don't worry, Ed knows how to cook.' "
Life together was simple and frugal. Two years into the marriage, when Mary was pregnant with her first son, Ed's weekly pay got bumped up from $29 to $31.
"He carried me up two flights of stairs" to the apartment, Mrs. Marzec remembered. "We were so happy with $2."
In time the couple had two sons: Richard and Bob. Ed cut their hair and pulled their teeth. Mary made their clothes.
"We never felt poor," she said. "The boys went to Catholic school. The rent was paid. We always had food on the table."
For 12 years, Mary wore the plain gold band that Ed had given her on their wedding day. But when she got a job as a seamstress working alongside other women with flashier rings, she wanted a nicer ring for herself. And why not?
"I was working," she said. They could afford it.
So they bought a double-gold band that framed 15 small diamonds in diamond-shaped settings. It was pretty, not showy.
And that ring stayed on her finger over the years — as she fed countless bolts of material through the sewing machines for famed New York designer Adolfo, as she sewed the red coat and hat that Nancy Reagan wore at her husband's first inauguration, as she knitted blankets and welcomed grandchildren and great-grandchildren and buried a son — until it sailed off her finger a few months ago at the Embassy Boulevard bus stop just east of U.S. 19.
• • •
A sheriff's deputy happened by the gas station that afternoon and saw Mrs. Marzec frantically searching for her ring. In his pocket was the business card for George Kollmer, a treasure hunting enthusiast who owns a couple of metal detectors.
Kollmer, 75, came out to the field with his trusty Teknetics 7700B coin computer. A dial on the metal detector indicates whether the item below is, say, a dime, a quarter — or a ring.
"It's 99 percent right," said Kollmer, a retired auto mechanic who lives in Port Richey. "It's never failed me."
The Marzecs had already left — they had to catch their bus back to their Port Richey home — when Kollmer arrived. He asked the gas station clerk where the ring had been lost, and the attendant waved out toward the bus stop bench.
In a patch of overgrown grass between the sidewalk and a utilities box, Kollmer's detector got a hit for a ring.
"Within 10 minutes," he said, "I had it in my hand."
He called Mrs. Marzec, then drove straight to their house with the ring.
Mrs. Marzec was in tears, and pressed $50 into Kollmer's hand.
The ring from her finger belonged with her heart.
"If you promise yourself to someone," she said, "that's for life."