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Epilogue: A toast to the Diamond Lady

Miriam Tucker sat primly on stage. She wore a black turtleneck and a pink blazer, legs crossed, hands folded to one side.

Across from her, David Letterman listened as she told her story.

"Wow," he said, and his smile grew wider.

"Now," Miriam said, "now, I have to fess up."

On that day in May 2013, Miriam explained what had happened a few weeks before, when she'd had an embarrassing and totally fitting adventure. Her family still relishes the story of her reluctant notoriety. The South Tampa woman died on Oct. 29 at 86 from a series of health complications.

In late April 2013, Miriam sat with family at a fundraiser for the Tampa Women's Club. Hundreds of people sat around them, and each had a glass of champagne. In one of those glasses rested a one-carat diamond, the prize for a lucky attendee.

During the event, staff from Continental Wholesale Diamond went from table to table, checking each glass for the winner.

When they got down to the final two tables, Miriam's oldest daughter, Leigh Ann Tucker, thought to herself, oh my gosh, one of us has the diamond.

She wasn't wrong.

Mary Ann Porter, Miriam's youngest daughter, remembers that her mother leaned over to a niece, mortified, and said, "don't tell anybody, but I swallowed mine."

The news spread around the table. The women there tried to contain their laughter. They figured - what are the odds?

For Miriam, they were pretty darn good.

The Georgia native and mother of three had a way of stumbling good-naturedly into tricky situations.

Once on vacation in Destin, she went swimming in the ocean. From the shore, her husband and children waved frantically. They'd spotted a shark. Miriam thought they were just waving hello.

At the fundraiser, the jewelers finally came to their table.

Soon, Miriam ended up in the ER for an X-ray but reassured everyone that they'd find the stone - she already had a colonoscopy scheduled. She prepped for the procedure (don't ask), and the following day was the last for one of Leigh Ann's expensive colanders (don't ask).

Miriam left her doctor's that Monday in good health with a one-karat diamond, which she had set in a necklace and gave to her granddaughter, Camryn.

"After that, it just became a media firestorm," Mary Ann remembered.

Journalists and TV hosts called from all over the world. Everyone wanted to interview Tampa's Diamond Lady. Miriam was not interested.

She finally relented and allowed a local TV story, but, like a protected informant, refused to show her face. Still, the attention didn't stop. Miriam's family eventually convinced her to do just one national show.

She picked Letterman's. The producer, she thought, was respectful. The day of the show, she followed Paris Hilton on stage.

"This story's gone around the world," Letterman said. "And it's been a little fun I would think, right?"

"At first, it wasn't," Miriam said. "But I finally decided ... if you can't beat them, join them."

Letterman reached behind his desk and gave her a dozen red roses.

"May I say one more thing?" she asked

"Yes," he replied.

"My colonoscopy doctor told me to tell everybody, please if they could, to get their colonoscopy," she said to laughter from the audience. "You may not find a diamond, but you could find something much more important."

After the show, Miriam smiled sweetly outside the studio at a cluster of photographers. She didn't want the fame that came with swallowing a diamond, but she faced it, like so many things in her life, with humor and grace.

She lasted maybe one or two minutes.

"And then she looked at me," Mary Ann remembered, "and said: 'OK, I'm done. Let's go.' "

Senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Want to know more about Miriam? Head over to Instagram and @werememberthem and see one way her daughters and granddaughter will remember her. Know someone who has recently died whom we should write about? Send suggestions to Kristen Hare at epilogue@tampabay.com.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly referenced the kind of diamond.

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