When Luke Berube took a trip to a pond near his Orleans, Massachusetts home, it wasn’t with a trunk full of floaties and and fishing rods. He was an amateur treasure hunter, and when he took a dive into the Cape Cod waters, he did it armed with a metal detector.
By 2019, he was no stranger to lost coins or trinkets, yet a seemingly small find sent him on a journey he never expected. With a few discoveries in his pocket, he knew he was the only person capable of bringing closure to a decades-old mystery.
As Luke scoured the bottom of ponds, he wasn’t looking to get rich quick — not really. He belonged to an online organization with a simple purpose: find what people lost underwater and return it.
Luke was a member of The Ring Finders, an organization started by a trinket finder from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It “help[ed] people find their lost jewelry at beaches, parks, lakes and yards all around the world.”
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“The Ring Finders’ members recorded over 5,610 successful recoveries to date and have had some amazing stories to tell on their personal blog pages,” the owner wrote on the website. Luke was in great company.
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Luke was no rookie in the organization. In his website profile, he says, “I have been detecting for approximately 12 years. I am an advanced open water certified diver, licensed boat captain and avid mountain biker.” So, Luke has some experience.
In fact, in 12 years of underwater metal detecting, he’s found more than 100 rings. It’s definitely enough to make you want to take this up as a hobby. There’s probably a place to get scuba-certified near you.
In 2019, Luke was out hunting. He said the water was about 65 degrees and only about 10 feet deep at the most. This is where Luke found a brass ring (he’d hoped it was gold) and a high school class ring.
The special ring sitting on the bottom of the pond was a class ring from a high school in Boston. On the face, the ring had the owner’s initials and the year 1960 — the year it was created. Something about this ring struck him.
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He’d found other rings in the past, like wedding bands, but because these look so similar they are nearly impossible to return. “Because there were identifying marks on [the ring] … I wanted to push to get it back to somebody,” Berube said to CNN.
Luke could tell that this ring would likely hold a sentimental spot for its true owner and decided to do the right thing and try to find them. The only question was: where should he start?
The ring itself is from Gate of Heaven High School, located in South Boston. Luke started searched for the initial inset into the ring — WJW. Those initials didn’t appear within the graduating class records Luke obtained.
Next, Luke tried searching Facebook. In the past few years, Facebook has made a major effort to increase the number of groups on their platform, so Luke found and then joined one for Gate of Heaven alumni.
At 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning, Luke posted about finding the ring and his desire to reconnect with its owner. And six hours later, Luke received a text. It was Christine Wadel.
Christine thought the ring was her father’s — William Joseph Wadel. She spoke to William about the found ring. “I called my Dad and said, ‘Dad, could this be yours?’” she said in a WBZ-TV interview.
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His response? “‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘You lost a ring?’ And he said, ‘Yes!’” Diane said. William had graduated from Gate of Heaven in 1960 and bought a custom class ring to celebrate this milestone.
One of William’s old partners had accidentally lost the ring. When Christine had connected with her dad, she sent Luke some vintage photos of William while he was in high school and his diploma.
Luke quickly called Christine after receiving the pictures and the two coordinated a time to make the ring exchange. Christine drove to the Cape area to retrieve the long-lost item. And suddenly, the ring drew closer to its original owner.
That weekend, she was staying with William in Virginia and wanted to bring him the ring. Luke felt great about meeting Christine and making the exchange. “This type of recovery/return has been on my bucket list for years, and I finally managed to pull it off,” he said.
Luke almost felt like a burden was lifted after he returned the ring to its rightful owner’s daughter. “Now the ring is in Christine’s hands and will be headed to its right place on her father’s finger,” Luke said.
So, after nearly 60 years in a shallow bed of water, the ring is finally being returned back to its owner — kind of like a reverse Lord of the Rings. William is 77 and about to finally see a ring that’s been missing since he was 18.
Luke, meanwhile, planned to head right back to the water. There was a lot more to find out there. From talking to his colleagues, Luke learned about underwater finds that helped closed investigations.
Rich Aloha was fresh off his 27th birthday when he set off for Foster Falls. See, Rich was an avid hiker and diver who loved filming his adventures. This trip, though, was going to be different.
Back in 2009, Rich launched a YouTube channel for his adventures. He gained a following for his beautiful footage of places like Wekiwa Springs State Park. He even brings his cat along for the ride!
But in 2019, Rich wanted to try something a little different. He headed up to Chattanooga, Tennessee, with some scuba gear to explore Foster Falls. It seemed like just another adventure at the time.
A part of South Cumberland State Park, the 60-foot waterfalls are a popular destination for swimmers looking to cool off and snap a few pics. And because the pools are so deep, visitors lose things all the time.
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“I might be finding a drone, or an iPhone, maybe a GoPro,” Rich exclaimed at the beginning of his video. “And if I’m really lucky, I might even find some cash.” With that, he took the plunge into the murky depths.
Rich dove into the water near the fall. At first, the murky waters seemed to be devoid of any kind of treasure, but then Rich spotted something out of the corner of his eye.
There was a small black-and-gold bracelet lying there among the rocks. Rich took his new prize and placed it on his wrist before moving forward; there was more treasure to be found.
Next, Rich spotted a ring — maybe a wedding ring? — before diving even further. After locating a pair of sunglasses and a discarded turtle shell, he saw something much more valuable.
There, lying among the rocks at the bottom of the pool, was a camera. Excited, Rich snatched up the GoPro and returned to the surface, eager to see if there was any footage on it.
“We’ll review the footage and see if I can’t get that back to the rightful owners,” said Rich, closing out the video. “But this is definitely one for the books.”
As Rich left Foster Falls, he ran into a park ranger who shared some interesting information with him. It seemed a man named Richard Ragland had drowned there two years earlier. Rich’s heart sank.
Was there any connection to the items he found and Richard Ragland’s death? When he turned on the camera, he was dumbstruck. “I was going through the footage and sure enough, I just said ‘Oh my god, this is the guy,'” he recalled.
Slowly, Rich uncovered Richard Ragland’s backstory. He had grown up in Georgia and later served in the National Guard. Later, he found his calling as an actor. Fate intervened on a road trip with some friends in 2017.
Richard and his friends stopped at Foster Falls for a bit of exploring and when they came across the falls, they had to stop for a swim. That’s when Richard pulled out his camera and started filming.
The situation quickly got worse. Richard was getting pulled beneath the surface and struggling to breathe. One of his friends tried to pull him up out of the water, but it was too late.
They tried to revive Richard with CPR, but the effort was hopeless. Paramedics quickly showed up to take him to a nearby hospital, but once he had arrived, they pronounced him dead.
So, when Rich found the video of those final moments, he was heartbroken listening to some of Richard’s last words: “You start to not take your life for granted and not allow people to manage your life,” Richard said. “I didn’t want anybody to manage my life.”
Troubled, Rich made a bold choice: he located Richard’s parents to show them what he’d found. When they got the phone call, it must have brought some small comfort that they might finally have some answers into that unthinkable tragedy.
“The SD card was intact, all the footage was there. It was like an out of body experience,” said Richard’s mother. “What we’ve seen so far is Rich being Rich, living life to the fullest.”
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Richard’s mother was also grateful that Rich had sought them out: “For him to go through the effort to do his research, make numerous phone calls – he didn’t give up until he got in touch with us and that means the world to us.”
Though it captured a tragedy, the footage of their son brought some closure to Richard’s parents. They weren’t sure if they wanted to watch it at first, but they knew revisiting the past was sometimes necessary to heal. The opportunity would’ve have been possible without Rich Aloha.