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She was told she had a needle-in-a-haystack chance, but she has been reunited with the last piece of jewelry her husband gave her before passing away thanks to a stranger from Sumter and his metal detector.
Jeanette White was vacationing at Surfside Beach just south of Myrtle Beach from Ripley, West Virginia, with her three sons and her late husband's family when she took her wedding ring off before getting in the ocean on Sunday. She stored it in a container with sunglasses, and someone must have reached in there without realizing the contents, knocking it into the sand, she said.
Her husband, Greg White, had given her a new wedding ring, one that sat flat and was made out of platinum that doesn't react with sensitive skin, in December 2017. He passed away in December 2018 after a short, unexpected illness put him in the hospital and a reaction to medicine fatally clotted his blood. June 30 would have been their 29th anniversary.
"I had asked an older gentleman on Sunday, but he had grandkids with him, and they were kind of far away," she said of the first person with a metal detector she asked to help search for her lost ring.
She had already passed TJ Hansen on Tuesday when she remembered a conversation she said she had with God about taking opportunities placed before her.
"I know it's not the things, it's the people that matter, but I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask," she said. "We found a dime, a penny and a pop tab. Then, he found it."
Hansen, who was born and lives in Sumter, said he has been metal detecting for four or five years. He likes looking for old relics and coins.
"I've found some really old stuff, but that was definitely my most valuable find ... I've found some 1700s coins and some Civil War stuff," he said.
She told him her story, and he agreed to help but told her not to get her hopes up. There's so much trash on the beach and in the sand, he said, and a ring hits like the pop tab they found.
"One in 100 times you might find something good. Most people don't find anything at the beach because they get tired of digging up trash," he said. "But it made a difference knowing it's something she had lost. And she knew the general area where it was, so that helped."
They walked about a mile to the spot then spent about an hour searching, he said. They dug about 10 holes investigating hits from the metal detector before going about four inches into the sand to reveal White's ring.
"It was the first morning I went out there since we've been here," said Hansen, who vacations at the Ocean Lakes Family Campground every year with his wife, kids, parents and sister. "I wasn't expecting to get to do something like that."
He said she had explained she had insurance on the ring but that the sentimental value of it was why they both wanted to find it.
"She offered me money I didn't want to take nothing from nobody," Hansen said. "I didn't know I'd make her day that much when I did find it, but she started shaking and crying and hugging me."
She posted a photo on Facebook of Hansen holding the ring on the beach and thanked him for his good deed, which had received almost 1,000 likes and more than 260 comments and shares two days later.
He may not have accepted money or even a bottle of water from the widow - he did keep the dime and the penny he found - but the two entire families are hoping to meet up for ice cream before heading home.
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