Woman’s rings rescued from mounds of trash at landfill

Published 6:50 am Monday, June 9, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Stephanie Hessey from Niles couldn't believe her own eyes Thursday afternoon.
Having thrown away five rings, one of which was her grandmother's 90-year-old wedding ring from Jugoslavia, she found them again; among a heap of trash at the Berrien County Landfill.
She later put her rings in a paper towel to dry.
However, before going to bed Wednesday night, Hessey realized she couldn't remember having seen the paper towel with the rings in since she had left it in her kitchen.
At 7.30 a.m. Thursday, she called her local trash hauler, only to find out he had taken her trash to the landfill the night before.
But, he told Hessey exactly which of the 30-yard landfill dumpsters he had dumped her trash in.
Hessey then called the Berrien County Landfill and asked if that specific dumpster had been emptied, to which they said no.
She then explained her situation to them.
Immediately after her phone call, Hessey, and her 21-year-old son, Ryan, headed to the landfill.
Before starting their search, they were provided with masks and gloves to protect them from the trash.
They dug for an-hour-and-a-half before two landfill employees offered them assistance.
The two employees, Joe Novacek and Mike Horner, said they would dump the 30-yard dumpster on the hill to make it easier to spread things out, that way increasing the chances of finding anything, Hessey said.
After a while, however, Hessey said they realized her rings were not in that first dumpster they searched through.
But determined not to give up looking, Novacek and Horner asked their boss if it was OK to empty a second dumpster, which at the time was only half- full.
When their boss said 'yes', Hessey told everyone to be on the look-out for a popcorn tin-can she remembered was supposed to be in her trash bag.
Suddenly, one of the landfill employees said: "Did that popcorn tin have cows on it."
Hessey, who couldn't believe what she had just heard, ran over to the employee, opened the trash and found a paper towel, all crunched up.
After unfolding the paper towel, Hessey saw her five rings. "It was amazing," she said.
When she spoke to landfill workers after the find, they told her no one had ever found anything of value there before.
Hessey, however, said if it hadn't been for Novacek and Horner, who helped her, she probably never would have found her rings.
She also said if her grandmothers wedding ring hadn't been among the five rings, she never would have gone searching for them, especially not at the landfill.
When she came home, Hessey spent an hour in the shower using antibacterial soap to clean up and get rid of the smell from the landfill.
Hessey said her son probably said it best: "What a way to spend a day off, digging in the dumpster with my mom."
The landfill workers, who Thursday wouldn't take a tip from Hessey for their assistance with finding the rings, will receive pizza and home made chocolate cookies today.
That's Hessey's way of saying thanks for helping her out.