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Lost Wedding Ring Returned, Days After Man's Death

8:52 AM, Jan 29, 2014   |    comments
Michael and Patricia Murrane were married for more than 50 years. His wedding ring was 'the only material thing my dad cared about,' daughter Mary Murrane says. The lost ring was returned to his family Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014. (Photo: Provided to The Des Moines Register)
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Katherine Klingseis, The Des Moines Register

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A stranger lessened a family's grief when he returned a wedding ring belonging to its patriarch who had died just hours after it was lost.

"The only material thing my dad cared about was his wedding ring," daughter Mary Murrane said Tuesday.

Tom Barnabo found the ring when he was walking into the Windsor Heights Hy-Vee late Saturday.

"For some reason, I don't know if it was slick, but I was looking down and I saw something shiny," Barnabo said.

Barnabo picked up the ring and saw an inscription on the inside of the ring that read, "MWM-PAM 5-25-1963."

"I thought it was pretty valuable, especially after a 50th anniversary," Barnabo said. "I didn't think there was much of a chance, but I left my name and number" with Hy-Vee, and he took the ring with him.

Michael and Patricia Murrane had gone to Hy-Vee to pick up some juice Saturday night. Michael, who had Parkinson's disease and ulcerative colitis, was feeling ill, and the couple thought juice would help him feel better.

When Patricia was inside, Michael got out to shut the car's hatch, which he thought he had accidentally opened.

"Dad's hands had gotten smaller," Mary Murrane said. "He was always afraid his ring would fall off."

That was exactly what happened. But they didn't notice and returned home.

That night, Murrane's condition deteriorated. At about the same time Barnabo was picking up the ring, an ambulance was driving Murrane to the hospital.

Doctors told family members that surgery to repair a perforated bowel could kill Murrane. The family decided against surgery.

"We decided it would be better to spend the last few moments with my dad," Mary Murrane said. "We decided we wouldn't risk going into surgery and having him die alone on the table."

Murrane died at 7:18 a.m. Sunday.

The family realized later that his wedding ring was missing. They searched Michael and Patricia's Windsor Heights home, looked in all his clothes and bags, and called all the places he had been Saturday night. They came up empty-handed.

On Tuesday morning, Mary Murrane decided to check Hy-Vee on her way to a funeral home. She wasn't able to find the ring outside, so she went inside.

A Hy-Vee employee, Jess Luppe, overheard her asking about the ring and approached her.

"She said a young man had found it, and he said it looked very important and he wouldn't let it be left in a box," Mary Murrane said.

She and Barnabo talked on the phone and set up to a meeting Tuesday afternoon. Barnabo, a teacher at Dowling Catholic High School, took a break between meetings to meet the Murranes.

The exchange almost brought tears to Barnabo's eyes, he said.

Mary "just broke down into tears and gave me the biggest hug in the world," Barnabo said. "I'm very happy I was able to come across it for them."

Finding the lost ring has helped the family in a time of grief, Mary Murrane said.

She wants to thank Luppe and Barnabo for helping find her father's most beloved material possession.

"We think they all need to be recognized," she said. "If anything could brighten this horrible, horrible time, it would be finding that ring."

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