Ring Finding is a Family Affair

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MTT News's picture
Deb Biechler

When I asked Dan Roekle how he and his family got started as metal detectors, his answer spoke volumes, “We got hooked on the stories!” 

While on vacation in Florida several years ago, Dan and his son saw some retired fellows walking the beach with metal detectors.  The stories that those men told about their “finds” led the Roekles to purchase a basic detector when they got home.

For the first year, Dan and his two children went to area parks.  While his daughter played on the park equipment, Dan and his son took turns detecting. They felt like it was a good day when they found a quarter.

Then Dan discovered a website by a group called The Ring Finders.  It was created to help people get reconnected to lost wedding or other special rings.

The Ring Finders offers a directory of people who love going out with their detectors to help in those recoveries.  There is a small fee for the service to cover time and gas. 

Since adding his name to the list on Ring Finders, Dan and his children - 12-year-old Carter and nine-year-old Kylie -  have been collecting their own stories. 

The latest story involves a Madison area man named Al who lost a ring given to him in honor of 25 years of service at a local insurance agency.  The ring was lost when Al was mowing a greenway near his home.

Some tree branches hung low.  So, as Al passed them on his riding lawn mower, he had to reach out and raise them.  As he was raising one, a small twig hooked his gold ring with a black onyx center and three diamonds, flinging it into the grass.

Al immediately stopped, got a rake and searched for a long time without finding it.  He searched several times in the year that passed, always wondering if it was still out there.

One Sunday Al was reading The Wisconsin State Journal and came across an article by Doug Moe about the Roekle Family ring-finding activities.  Al called right away.  Here’s Dan’s account of the find as posted on his Ring Finders blog.

“Al only lived about 15 mins away, however, as we pulled into his driveway it started to rain. Argh. We decided to give it a shot anyways, and headed to the backyard. Al explained how he lost it again, and we started to search the area. We got some hits right away, but all turned out to be junk. You’d be surprised how much junk is buried in your backyard. I always tell people not to get discouraged when we don’t find their ring right away, and we assured Al that we’d keep looking until we found it. I widened the search area around the tree, not knowing how far that branch might have flung the ring. After about 20 mins, my daughter says to me, “That tree over there looks a lot like this tree.”  I’m not sure if Al heard her or not, but a min later he said, ‘Maybe it was closer to that tree.’ Sure enough, after moving over … the very first hit we got was Al’s ring – about an inch below the grass.”

“Al had thought about renting a metal detector himself, as many people do,” said Roekle.  “But, so many of the people who I talked to who do that, get really frustrated.”

There are many things to learn about metal detection, including the types of tones that each unit emits, indicating the types of metal and the depth of objects.  “It takes trained eyes and ears to discriminate between the junk and what you’re looking for.

When roofs get redone,” Roekle continued, there are metal scraps and nails flung everywhere.  Lots of people give up when they don’t know what to listen for.”

Rings lost outdoors are at the mercy of Wisconsin’s freeze and thaw cycles.  Heavy metals like gold and silver get pulled down lower with each cycle.

Good metal detectors will detect 10-12 inches deep.  The deeper the object, the more interference they are likely to encounter from junk that is also buried.

Because of the additional discretionary payments that the Roekle’s have received from people who are gratefully reunited with their rings, the Roekle’s have been able to upgrade their equipment to include a detectors that work at deeper levels and in water.

Roekle’s favorite “find” to date, was because of their water-detector upgrade. 

The call came from a man who lost his wedding ring in Web Lake, a six hour drive north from Middleton.  “He agreed to pay for the travel and offered a nice fee if we found it,” said Roekle. 

Getting the story of how the ring is lost is very important in finding it again.  Knowing the story helps to determine the possible trajectory and depth of an object.

In this case, the Web Lake man was spinning his grandson in a tube just off of the pier when his wedding ring was lost.  It was a wax-molded ring, made to match his wife’s ring. 

They had been married for 27 years.  The ring-maker, who was a family friend, had since passed away so the ring was irreplaceable.

After three hours of searching, they didn’t find it.  They convinced the man’s wife to throw her ring into the water so that they could get a reading on what a good hit would sound like.  “She didn’t like the idea at first,” Roekle reported, “but she finally agreed.”

After a lunch break they went out to try again.  The area in front of the pier used to be a common sand bar.  Lots of people used to dock their boats in the area and get out to swim or play in the water.  That seemed to explain why they found 15 bottlecaps, six pieces of junk metal and somebody else’s wedding ring.

Dan kept working while his son took a break to swam for awhile.  After a short time, Dan felt a tug on his shirt.  His son was standing beside him, holding the ring they had been searching for.

During the search, they used a scoop made specifically for sand.  A foot on the scoop gives leverage to the scoop which is at the end of a long handle.  They disturbed a lot of sand in their efforts.  That’s how they think that the ring in question came to the surface and was stepped on by Dan’s son.

The Roekle’s still have the second ring and have run ads in search of the owner.

“It doesn’t matter how long your ring is lost. What matters is that you know the area it was lost in and how it was lost.  We can even detect through snow.

There was a blind fellow who was playing tug-of-war with his dog. He took his glove off and his wedding ring fell into the snow.  It got stepped into the snow so his wife couldn’t find it.  We were able to find it in five minutes with the detector.”

Roekle added, “I love connecting people back with what they’ve lost.  It’s not just the rings, but the memories and everything else that’s attached to them. When the phone rings and I get that look in my eye, my wife knows that she won’t see me for awhile.”

In addition to upgrading their equipment, Roekle donates some of the proceeds from the rewards to his children’s school, the West-side Christian School in Middleton.

Now that his daughter is older, she helps more actively in the searches.  Sometimes those searches are initiated by insurance companies. 

“It’s a win-win-win situation,” said Roekle.  “The owner gets their ring back, the insurance company pays less than a claim on the ring, and we’ve had another fun hunt.”

If you’ve lost a ring and would like assistance from the Roekle family, you can find their contact information on theringfinders.com.  Click on United States, then Wisconsin, then Madison.  Dan Roekle is the exclusive Ring Finder in the Madison area.


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