Ring return brightens Barracks
"It was loose then," recalls Tilman, who worked at Ken Johnson's Cafeteria in the island at Barracks Road beside what is now Ben & Jerry's. "I was washing stuff. When I got home, I realized it wasn't on my finger. I cried."
Tilman was crying again today, only this time tears of joy.
Janet Harper, center in photo, now general manager of Barracks Road Shopping Center, was a regular at the family-style cafeteria (which fed such notables as Jack and Anastasia Manahan), and Harper had gotten to know Tilman.
So when Ben & Jerry's manager Doug Barrese, left, strolled into her office this morning with a bucket of rusty tableware–- and a man's wedding band–- Harper thought she knew the rightful owner.
"It had left the building," says Barrese, explaining that a plumber had pulled the ring from a drain in the middle of the street.
"It was stuck on the tines of a fork," says Barrese. "That probably saved it."
After Barrese learned the lost-band story from Harper, he took the ring ("It got a little yucky," notes Harper) for a cleaning at Glassner Jewelers. Coincidentally, that's where, back in 1982, Mabel Lee Tilman had purchased her future husband's ring for $300.
Barrese and Harper were waiting at Ben & Jerry's when Tilman, 52, got an afternoon break from his job in the deli department at Harris-Teeter grocery store and raced over at 2:30. Barrese presented him with the Glassner box and asked if this were the ring.
"It is," said Tilman, as he put the no-longer loose ring on his finger, covered his eyes, and hugged Harper and Barrese.
"We may have to get it sized," observed Barrese.
Tilman had already told Mabel, who works nearby at the Hair Cuttery, that the ring possibly had been found. And yes, they're still married: They just celebrated their 26th anniversary March 20.
–PHOTOS BY JAY KUHLMANN