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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UC Davis groundskeeper recovers lost wedding ring two years later

‘Oh [expletive], I lost my [important belonging]!’ is a common woe on campus. Biking during rush hour and popping in and out of constantly rotating lecture halls makes it easy to leave something behind.

According to Tyson Mantor, UC Davis Grounds Supervisor, valuable items are turned in to the police station, while clothing and sporting equipment go to the lost and found at the Memorial Union. Although the grounds department makes an effort to turn in lost articles, many are irretrievably lost.

For a Davis professor, one such lost article was returned two years and a miracle later.

On a chilly day, Professor Adam Moule of the chemical engineering department took advantage of his wife being out of town and decided to play volleyball with his graduate students on the lawn near Bainer Hall after hours.

As the frosty weather began to shrink the fingers of the players, Moule set the ball and watched as his white and yellow gold wedding band slipped up off his finger and into the sky.

“I felt the ring go up and I experienced this Lord of The Rings moment when it just flew away,” Moule said. “I immediately went onto my hands and knees and started looking for it.”

Moule and his graduate students searched the lawn until the sun set, but it was too late. His wedding ring was gone.

In a frantic attempt to find the ring before his wife found out, Moule got up early the next morning and rented a metal detector.

“I was terrible at it. I dug up nothing but gum wrappers,” Moule said.

However, Moule kept at it for four hours, and even went as far as to pull up a grate in the middle of the field and sift through the muck that had accumulated there.

“As I put the grate back into place, I gave up. That Monday, I started putting up signs for a reward. As I was walking by Bainer, there was a guy, Chip, riding on a giant riding lawn mower, so I ran into the field and was like ‘Stop, stop, stop! My ring!’” Moule said. “He said that he had already mowed it, so I asked, ‘Did you hear a clank in the mower?’ Because I thought, if anything, I may as well get the gold back. And he gave me this funny look, so I told him the whole story, and we ended up talking for maybe half an hour.”

Chip Swenson, an employee of the grounds department, said that he hadn’t felt anything underneath his mower, but that he would keep an eye out. As time went on though, the reality of the loss set in.

Professor Moule began to wear the band that he and his wife used for traveling, but never replaced his original ring.

Weeks, months, years passed.

Then one day this quarter, a full two and a half years later, Swenson knocked at the door of Moule’s office.

“I asked if he remembered me and he said he didn’t, and I said, okay, stick out your hand,” Swenson said. “Without another word, I gave him his wedding ring.”

Moule said he was elated.

“I couldn’t believe that he found it, remembered me and returned it! I felt like, wow, this guy really took care of me,” Moule said.

Swenson had been collecting trash on the lawn outside Bainer Hall, and as he bent down to pick a piece up, he noticed something lying atop the grass.

“The ring was just sitting there, it hadn’t been trampled and pushed underground. The lawn mowers had gone over it for two whole years and it didn’t have a scratch on it,” Moule said.

When Swenson picked up the ring, he began to examine it, and noticed two lines on the outside and an inscription inside.

He immediately remembered that it matched the description that had been described to him so long ago, but he couldn’t recall Moule’s name.

He went about going into the buildings in the area and asking around, eventually being directed to Bainer Hall and Moule.

“The really cool thing is that he didn’t just sell it or melt it down. The metal itself is worth more than the reward. It’s really incredible that he returned it,” Moule said.

Swenson’s supervisor echoed the sentiment.

“He took it upon himself to return the ring. It’s the kind of thing that is so great to hear as a supervisor,” Mantor said. “He was quiet about it, and said he didn’t want much publicity. I think it’s awesome what he did. This story is a fantastic example of how [the employees at Grounds] really are stewards of this landscape.”

When asked, Swenson was hesitant to take too much praise, and said that he was only doing his job and doing what was right.

“You know, I have worked two places, Disneyland and Davis. When people ask me why, I say, it’s the two happiest places on Earth,” Swenson said. “I love being able to help others out. It was the right thing to do to find him and return the ring.”

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