When Marie Robertson accidentally flushed her rings down the toilet, her husband was ready to just give up and consider them lost for good. "I'm from the old school. I'm 91 years old," Charles Robertson said.
Robertson was filmed in a video recently released by the city of Springfield, Missouri, to call attention to what happened. "In my age group you accept things the way they are," he said.
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After three weeks, their daughter Joy, however, persuaded her father to ask the local public works department to see if it could help. The rings had special meaning to the couple, who have been married for 67 years. Robertson, a retired dentist, had purchased the gold band with a cluster of small diamonds for his wife "many, many, many years ago," he said. His wife, who is now living in a nursing home and being treated for Alzheimer's, had a custom casing made of leftover gold fillings from his dental practice to accompany the band.
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"It was like finding a needle in a haystack," Jim Noblitt, who was part of the team dispatched from Public Works and Environmental Services to recover the ring, told Yahoo Shine. Noblitt said he gets three or four calls a year to help find lost rings, but they are usually futile assignments — the rings are whisked rapidly through the pipes and dumped into a larger sewer system.
Noblitt's secret weapon was a tiny remotely controlled camera, which is snaked into the sewer pipes to check for maintenance issues. The team worked for many hours and spotted only the usual "roots, rocks, and bugs," he said. However, on Friday afternoon, Robertson recalls, "I told the fellows to go home." But, they kept working and had a breakthrough four separate lines away from the house, about 800 feet. There was a little dip in the PVC pipe that was catching debris. They flushed out the line into a downstream manhole and started pulling up debris in five-gallon buckets.
Noblitt spied the rings, fished them out, and rushed them back to the house, but Robertson and his wife had gone out. He took them home himself and cleaned them. "They don't look too good after three weeks in the sewer," he said. "I finally reached Mr. Robertson on the phone, and he asked when I would be at work on Monday. He was waiting for me downtown at the office at 7 a.m."
When he handed her the rings, Robertson says, his wife was "elated." He added, "We were plum happy, and they [the public works team] were plum happy, too. I can't sing their praises enough."
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