Being mom to five boys, ages five through 18, to say Nellie Harris Ritter is one busy lady is an understatement. She is used to hectic days, and last Sunday was no exception. Her son was one of 40 kids confirmed at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. One of her son’s passions is surfing, so the family held an after party at the beach near the Shores. With the best laid plans, she brought casual clothes to change into after church, but never had a free moment, so stayed dressed up including her sapphire and diamond dangling earrings. Mid-way through the festivities she noticed that one of her earrings was missing. “I didn’t want to disrupt the party, and I felt that on this special day of Sacrament, the Holy Spirit would not let me down,” says Nellie. When she finally had a minute, after the party finished at 6:30 p.m., she starting hunting for the earring. It had sentimental value because the pair was a gift from her husband that she had picked out the previous year from a 1940’s antique art deco collection, making them truly unique.
When they returned home to the Cays, she kept thinking, “I’ll find it. I know it will work out.” Her husband had her check the pictures from the confirmation to see if she had it on at the church and when she saw both earrings in the pictures, she knew she had lost it at the beach. She looked through the car and all the bags from the party, and then sat down exhausted from the day. “I knew the sand would be groomed in the morning, so I had to figure out a way to look right then.” She googled ‘metal detector finder’ and came across many sites to buy metal detectors, but then near the bottom of the page, an ad stuck out that said theringfinders.com. She put in her location, and a listing for Mark Rubey came up, so she gave him a call around 8 p.m. He was just finishing up dinner in Mission Valley, but said he’d head out, and he and his wife met Nellie at the beach.
It was lucky that she made that call to Mark, who has loved metal detecting since he was 17. With more than 40 years of experience, he was the first one in San Diego to join theringfinders.com website that boasts hundreds of members in 28 countries. He averages about one call a week, with the summer obviously his busy season, locating everything from keys, rings, cellphones, and more at sandy beaches and in shallow water. Sometimes he finds things in a matter of seconds, sometimes it takes days, and other times items remain elusive.
His Equinox 800 metal detector has a discrimination setting built in, so he was able to scan Nellie’s other earring, which registered an eight. He then set about a methodical, spiral search in the designated area 50 feet in diameter. “With not much luck, other than a five reading from a nickel, I finally got that ‘sweet eight’ sound in my headphones, after about a half hour of searching,” says Mark. When he showed Nellie the earring, there were hugs all around. “It’s satisfying to reunite people with their items, especially if they have sentimental value,” says Mark.
“I had my doubts near the end of the search, so I spoke a prayer to St. Anthony, finder of lost things. And then my earring was found,” says Nellie. The Ritters have lived in Coronado since 2005, and this is the second time that Nellie has won the lost jewelry lottery. Approximately seven years ago, her watch fell off their boat in Glorietta Bay on the 4th of July. They couldn’t locate it in the water, so her husband, an avid boater, put a buoy marking where the watch had dropped. They called their boat diver and asked him to check out the area around the buoy. Unfortunately, the buoy had moved, but the diver was able to trace the path it had traveled, and after about 45 minutes, just when he had decided to search for five more minutes, he saw the glint of the watch and retrieved it.
Nellie’s busy life continues on, as next year her oldest son heads off to college and her youngest will be starting kindergarten. “I hope not to lose any more jewelry, but I am thankful for this latest encounter with Mark and how he went out of his way to reunite me with my beloved earrings,” says Nellie.