NEWS- Return of the ring: 26th anniversary proves the charm

Selden Tilman is overcome when his missing wedding ring turns up– 25 years later at Ben & Jerry's.

Twenty-five years ago, newlywed Selden Tilman was devastated when, married barely six months, 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 last week, only this time they were tears of joy.

Janet Harper, now general manager of Barracks Road Shopping Center, was a regular at the family-style cafeteria (which also fed such local notables as Jack and Anastasia Manahan), and Harper had gotten to know Tilman.

So when Ben & Jerry's manager Doug Barrese strolled into her office April 2 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," he adds. "That probably saved it."

After Barrese learned the lost-band story from Harper, he took the ring for a cleaning at Glassner Jewelers. ("It got a little yucky," notes Harper.) Coincidentally, that's where, back in 1982, Mabel Lee Tilman had purchased the ring for her future husband 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 the 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 celebrated their 26th anniversary March 20.

Ben & Jerry's manager Doug Barrese, left, headed over to the office of Barracks Road general manager Janet Harper, center, to show her what a plumber had pulled from a drain. Amid the rusted cutlery, Harper spied a ring– and remembered a guy who'd lost his wedding band a long time ago.