A lost ring and dumpster diving lead to ‘best present’
FORT MILL, S.C. (AP) — A Fort Mill woman said she got the best Christmas gift possible this month when strangers came together to help her find her heirloom wedding rings -- at the York County dump.
Michelle Kurtz was sure she wouldn’t see the diamond rings again after she accidentally threw them away, wrapped in a paper towel. It was trash day, and the garbage truck had already come.
But she said she had to try.
The middle diamond in her wedding ring had belonged to her husband’s grandmother, Kurtz said. Her husband Robert had the diamond set for her 23 years ago. His grandmother died before Kurtz had the chance to meet her, she said.
“It’s not only his grandmother’s, but yes, we’ve been married that long also,” she said. “It’s hard to replace both of those things. And having it, and just treasuring it for so many years, I just hated that I would have lost it.”
So Kurtz, who lives in the Baxter neighborhood in Fort Mill, called her private garbage company on Dec. 5 as soon as she realized her trash was gone.
They told her the rings were gone for good.
But she didn’t give up. She got the truck number and called York County Solid Waste Disposal.
Tim Walling, the solid waste disposal supervisor, said the waste transfer station would close at 4 p.m. But Kurtz’ garbage truck was the last truck to come in that day — and had dropped the trash off about 15 minutes before close.
That was one of many factors working in Kurtz’ favor, Walling said.
Another was the kindness of strangers.
Walling left work early that day. He had plans to eat dinner with his wife, also named Michelle.
When he heard that Kurtz wouldn’t be able to get to the station until after close, at about 5 p.m., he asked workers if anyone wanted to volunteer to stay. One man, Kenneth Wade, volunteered.
By that time, Walling’s wife had heard about the search, and told him they had to go help too.
And one of Kurtz’ friends came with her.
Four people — three of them complete strangers — volunteered to help Kurtz dig through garbage.
“When (Walling) did say he would turn back around to help me, It just meant the world to me,” Kurtz said. “I mean, I just couldn’t believe that he would actually do that for me. It was wonderful.”
Kurtz’ truck alone was carrying about eight tons of garbage, Walling said. The truck spread out the trash in a warehouse — about 60 feet of garbage spread on the floor.
″(Walling) said, ‘do you realize what you’re getting yourself into?‘” Kurtz said. “I said, not really, but I have to try.’ I have to try to get these rings.”
Walling said they’ve had calls about missing things before, but most of the time, they can’t allow anyone on the waste transfer floor. It’s too dangerous.
“It is a very dangerous room, you have to have your safety gear on,” he said. “We don’t allow foot traffic on the floor.”
And the few times they have searched for missing items, Walling said he’d never found anything.
“We’ll never find a ring in a paper towel in eight tons of trash,” Walling said he was thinking at the time.
But since the truck was the last of the day, and workers volunteered to stay late, they searched.
The employee who stayed late, Wade, narrowed the section Kurtz’ bags would be in according to the time her trash was picked up, and Walling’s wife Michelle figured out what Kurtz’ trash bags looked like.
They found three of Kurtz’ trash bags in the pile of garbage and after about an hour of digging , Kurtz’ friend Tiffany found the rings.
“I just felt so thankful to them,” she said. “We took pictures together and we all hugged. It was like we knew each other forever because they were just so wonderful and so nice to me.”
Walling said employees work long hard days at the waste disposal station, typically starting at 7 a.m. And they’re used to getting angry calls or complaints.
People tell them “thank you” less often. So they were happy to help Kurtz.
Kurtz brought them cakes and thank you notes and has spoken with Walling several times since that day.
She’s still emotional her rings were found — especially so close to Christmas. She and her husband will celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary Feb. 17.
“I thought I could never be so lucky and so thankful, and it’s the best present I’ve ever gotten,” Kurtz said. “It will make things that much more special in February too. It will definitely be a wonderful year of just blessings and being thankful.”
She said finding the rings was the only Christmas present she could ever want.
“I was just in awe, number one that we found it and number two, that the workers were so sweet and wonderful to even take time out of their day, and especially after work was done, to really help me,” she said. “I just really feel blessed that they were that sweet. And just feel wonderful that they helped me so much.”
“There are still really good people in this world.”
Information from: The Herald, http://www.heraldonline.com