Heart of Gold: Metal Detectorist Finds Engagement Ring at FDR Park

Alexa O’Rourke is thrilled after Don Mituzas, president of the Putnam/Westchester Metal Detectorists & Archaeological Society, recovers her engagement ring, which she lost days earlier at FDR Park. Credits: Don Mituzas
The ring was recovered after five days of searching. Credits: Don Mituzas

YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Four days after losing her engagement ring at a company picnic in FDR State Park, Alexa O’Rourke was starting to lose hope. On the fifth day, however, an “angel” came to O’Rourke’s rescue.

In just 35 minutes, Don Mituzas, president of the Putnam/Westchester Metal Detectorists & Archaeological Society, did what two dozen people before him couldn’t.

“He didn’t ask for money, he didn’t ask for anything—he just said it would be the greatest pleasure of his day to find the ring,” O’Rourke said. “What a great person.”

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O’Rourke, engaged to be married on July 8, lost her ring on Friday, Aug. 25, while playing a softball game at a company picnic. For the past three years, O’Rourke, a resident of Stamford, Conn., has been the marketing director for the Jefferson Valley Mall.

O’Rourke suspects she lost the ring while taking off her softball mitt, though she didn’t notice it was gone until the game was over. Around 5 p.m., she and about a dozen co-workers got on their hands and knees for nearly four hours looking for the ring. Over the next three days, O’Rourke, with the help of friends and family, continued to search the area where she suspected she lost the ring.

“I probably searched that park for over 12 hours with 20-25 people helping,” O’Rourke said.

On Tuesday, Aug. 29, a desperate O’Rourke reached out to Mituzas via email in a last-ditch effort to find the ring. Five minutes later, Mituzas was on the phone with O’Rourke, who recapped her story. Around lunchtime, Mituzas, a real estate broker from Brewster, was at FDR Park with his metal detector.

Mituzas, who has been metal detecting for 38 years, said his strategy was to eliminate areas where the ring likely wouldn’t be lost.

“I concentrated on the thicker grass where it wouldn’t be seen as easy,” Mituzas said. “Sure enough, that’s where it was.”

O’Rourke, who was at the park with Mituzas when he found the ring, said she was on the phone when he approached her: “He said, ‘Alexa, show me one more time the way you took your hand out of the glove.’ When I did that and I opened up my hand, he dropped the ring in my hand.”

Mituzas said nothing brings him more joy than helping other people find lost items.

“She was giving up hope,” Mituzas said. “You wouldn’t believe the look on her face. It really is so much fun when you can do that for somebody.”

O’Rourke said from the moment she made contact with Mituzas, she started to have hope that the ring would be found.

“After talking to him Tuesday morning, I immediately contacted my mom and said I talked to an angel this morning,” O’Rourke said. “From the second that I spoke to him on the phone, I could tell this was a genuine, light-hearted person. I could sense it on the phone.”

O’Rourke said she will be forever indebted to Mituzas and plans on maintaining contact with him.

“The whole day I just had this greater sense of peace that he was going to find it for me,” O’Rourke said. “I really had this intuition that he was going to be able to find it.”

This isn’t the first time Mituzas has recovered a treasured item that was presumed lost. A few times while metal detecting, he found decades old bracelets inscribed with the full names of their owners. Mituzas, searching against the tax rolls, said he was able to locate the owners of the bracelets. In one instance, he returned a piece of jewelry that had been lost for nearly 60 years.

Mituzas said he came into his hobby around 1980 when gold and silver prices were “shooting through the roof.” While a youngster in Radioshack, Mituzas said a $10 metal detector caught his eye.

“It’s just kind of been a hobby ever since,” he said.

The Putnam/Westchester Metal Detectorists & Archaeological Society has about 77 members and meets regularly in the Trinity Lutheran Church in Brewster. Because much of what the members find are historical artifacts—from shoe buckles to coins and brass arrowheads—he said the members are very knowledgeable about the history of the Hudson Valley.

“You pick up all sorts of odds and ends,” Mituzas said.

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