Thursday, May 20, 2004

Sunken Treasure (More about Prospect Lake)

Sunken treasure


The draining of Prospect Lake has brought out a lot of treasure seekers with metal detectors, including Orlin “Swede” Knutson.

This week, Knutson hit pay dirt.

The retired electrician found a wedding ring missing in the lake for 39 years.

“It’s a total miracle,” said Carolyn Case-Greening, 59, as she was reunited Wednesday with the gold band worn by her late husband, Jack Case.

He lost the ring while water-skiing in the lake in 1965, before their first wedding anniversary. It became even more of a loss after Case died in a plane crash in 1989.

“He’s up there in heaven, happy it is found,” Case-Greening said Wednesday, rubbing the heavy gold band inscribed with both their initials. “He’s out of hot water.”

Case-Greening decided to call Knutson last week after seeing his picture with a Gazette story about discoveries in the lake, such as a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle with the keys still in the ignition.

A car is a lot easier to find than a ring on the bottom of a 50-acre lake, but she said she was inspired by a higher power to contact Knutson in the hope he or a fellow prospector might come across the ring.

“The Lord told me to call him and put in a description,” she said. “It’s a needle in a haystack after 39 years.”

While her signal came from above, Knutson’s came from below.

Under about 8 inches of wet sand, to be exact.

“You get a good signal and you dig it. You don’t know what it is,” he said.

He didn’t know he had found the missing ring until he got home from his expedition Monday and saw the shiny band among his usual haul of fishing lures and rusty sinkers.

Then it clicked. He remembered the phone message his wife jotted down from Case-Greening a few days earlier describing the ring.

“What are the odds of finding a certain ring?” said Knutson, 67, who has scoured the ground with a metal detector since the late 1960s.

“Then I looked at the sheet of paper with the message.”

It was a match.

Case-Greening said she and Jack were newlyweds struggling to make ends meet when he lost the ring.

“I hadn’t wanted him to go water skiing that day. I had a bad feeling about it, but he went anyway,” she said. “When he came home he was just pale and sick looking. I said, ‘What’s wrong? Who died? What happened?’ He said, ‘I lost my wedding ring.’ He was an auto mechanic and I was in nursing school and we didn’t have much money.”

They bought another ring and started raising a family. Through the years, “We’d laugh about him losing his ring,” she said. “But he felt bad about it all his life.”

His life ended 15 years ago.

“He was killed in the United Flight 232 that crashed in Sioux City, Iowa, the big one that was going from Denver to Chicago, in July of 1989,” she said.

Crash investigators retrieved Case’s second wedding ring for her.

Case-Greening has since remarried. Wednesday, she brought along a framed blackand-white photograph from her first wedding to show Knutson.

“The ring is a wonderful anniversary present,” she told him. “November would have been 40 years of marriage.”

She gave Knutson a metallic “Thank-you” balloon and a gift certificate for a steak dinner.

Finding the cherished ring was reward enough for Knutson.

“The life of a detector isn’t that glamorous. We find a lot of junk,” said Bob DeWitt, president of Pikes Peak Adventure League. “People call us treasure hunters. This is a treasure.”

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