Ring return brightens Barracks

Twenty-five years ago, newlywed Selden Tilman was devastated. He'd been married barely six months when he lost the white-gold ring his bride had given him.

"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
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5 comments

Remarkable tale! Thank You!

Good ole Ken Johnson's! I miss that place. And I think of it often.

Sometimes you have to love Charlottesville- great story.

This was such a great story that was true. I forwarded it to a lot of our extened family,who has been wandering about Selden and Mable.

I am really glad that my company and I could be part of such a warm and happy story. When I first saw the ring, I thought there would be no way that its rightful owner would be found. I was happy to be wrong in this instance.

Mr. Cline. I'm glad you found my son Selden's ring too..alot of people wouldnt have borthered to try and find the owner. You must work for a nice company. I know Selden and Mable will remember this forever. I know I will. Selden does'nt have E-mail so I'm mailing to Bloogs to him. I know he'd thank everybody in person if he could. I know I would. Lillie Tilman