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Missing ring uncovers a diamond in the rough

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

It might have been fate that Carol Ross lost her 1.5-carat diamond ring Wednesday morning. Her temporary loss led to a special connection with a Clearwater woman.

The ring, worth about $1,500, fell off her pinky finger outside the Albertsons grocery store on East Bay Drive in Largo. She had gone there about 11 a.m. to buy fruit, she said.

Ross then went to visit her mother in Clearwater. And just after noon, "I looked and said, "My ring's gone,' " she said.

Her husband, Robert, had given it to her on their sixth wedding anniversary in 1979, just after the couple moved to Clearwater. At the time, Mrs. Ross yearned for the streets of her hometown Boston and missed her family, she said. Robert Ross says he paid $1,000 for it at an estate sale in Tampa.

"He had to do something to lift my spirits," Mrs. Ross said.

But Wednesday, her husband told her he doubted anyone would return the ring, said Mrs. Ross, 54.

She didn't believe that, though. She told him, "Nope, I've got two angels on my shoulders."

One of them was 64-year-old Joan Jones, a woman with whom Ross has a few things in common.

Jones' husband, who died in January, also was named Robert. Tuesday, Robert Jones would have been 72 years old. Wednesday, Robert Ross turned 64.

Both women are new volunteers for Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. Jones works in the organization's thrift store on Missouri Avenue in Clearwater, and Ross will soon work in the main office on East Bay Drive in Largo.

"I'm sure we'll be talking more," Jones said after Ross paid her a visit Wednesday. The two met at Jones' home in Southgate Mobile Home Park on U.S. 19 Wednesday afternoon. They talked and learned what they have in common.

Jones had found the ring on the ground outside Albertsons about the same time it was discovered missing.

"When I looked at it, I knew it had to be a pretty good ring," Jones said.

Ross said the ring is an antique that was made in Europe.

Jones turned it in to managers at Albertsons and says she never thought about keeping it.

"I was just thinking about the person who lost it," she said.

She gave store managers her name, address and phone number, so that if no one claimed the ring, she could run a newspaper ad seeking the owner, Jones said.

Ross returned to Albertsons to retrace her steps. A worker asked what she was looking for, then said a woman had just turned in a diamond ring.

"I just said, "Praise God,' " Ross said. "I can't believe this."

"I was so happy that she got the ring back, especially when I found out it had sentimental value," Jones said.

As a reward, Ross gave Jones $50 and a replica of the ring she had lost.

Sentiment is something Jones can relate to these days. This was the first birthday in her 17-year marriage she could not share with her husband, she said. Finding the ring must have been fate, she said. In her husband's absence, she felt especially good to give back a special anniversary memento for the Rosses.