Press Article: David Templeton's Seldom Seen: Hope triumps over loss, or you can try Internet

David Templeton's Seldom Seen: Hope triumps over loss, or you can try Internet

Sunday, March 07, 2004, http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04067/281165.stm

By David Templeton

For a quarter century, Mildred Mayer followed a routine when she awakened and before she went to bed.

Each morning, she'd take her diamond necklace, loop it around her neck and fasten the until-recently reliable clasp. And each night, in a ceremonial final act before applying head to pillow, she removed the necklace and put it gently on her bureau.

So imagine her surprise Feb. 21 when, preparing for bed, she reached for the beloved necklace and grabbed nothing but turtleneck sweater. Shock, panic and despair ripped through the 83-year-old Canton woman, who has yet to recover from the loss.

"My stomach hit bottom," she said.

Throughout the night, she searched her bedroom high and low, then the whole house, low and high. She dug through bags of garbage and pawed through her car, searching the seats, looking under floor mats and even checking the seat-belt buckles. She went so far as to rummage through the trunk's spare-tire well.

Nothing.

"I stayed up all night and hunted every place I could. I couldn't sleep," she said. "I even turned my panty hose inside out." It was the worst weekend for Mayer since her husband, Warren, died in 1980, she said. "It was a part of me," she said, tears welling. "I still expect to see it every day. I'm lost without it."

She is offering "a substantial reward" for its return. Anyone who finds it can reach her at 724-225-5037. Understand the importance of the half-karat diamond and setting, all dangling from a 16-inch gold chain. It's a priceless heirloom to Mayer. Her sister-in-law, Ellen Hunter, received the necklace as a birthday gift from her husband, but stashed it in a lockbox because she never wore necklaces. Hunter lent it to Mayer's youngest daughter, Becky, to wear in her wedding in the 1970s. Mayer and Hunter were best friends and as close as sisters. In her will, Hunter bequeathed the necklace to Mayer. But in 1979, while Mayer was visiting her in Oklahoma, Hunter handed it to her for keeps. "I want to make sure you get this," she said. Hunter died 10 years later. "It's a beautiful necklace," she said, "and we all loved Ellen." For 25 years, Mayer wore it daily, regardless of what she did. "I even wore it to cut the grass," she said. Since receiving the necklace, she has allowed six granddaughters to wear "the wedding necklace" as brides. Three unmarried granddaughters were in line to don the necklace on their wedding days.

Until that fateful Saturday.

Clasps wear out. Mistakes happen. Life is full of oversights, missteps and should-have-dones.

So it was that Mayer left home about 1 p.m. and drove to the Bridgeville store, Tuesday morning, to buy the last of eight brass-button bears to complete her collection.

Next, she visited a nearby Dollar Tree, then headed to Wal-Mart in South Strabane to buy prescriptions. She ended her day with dinner at Cici's Restaurant behind the Washington Mall and arrived home at 7:30 p.m. Later that evening, she went to her bedroom.

"When I was getting undressed, I took my ring, my watch and bracelet off, then reached to get the necklace, and it wasn't there."

After searching all night long, she called each store and returned to Cici's, without success. She and daughter-in-law Lorain searched every parking lot where she'd been, to no avail.

Losing necklaces has been a family trend of late.

Her daughter, Joyce Fordyce, of Buffalo Township, recently lost her cross necklace while accompanying her husband to his doctor's appointment. Joyce said she was frantic and "cried for days."

When her husband returned to the doctor's office, however, he recovered the missing necklace. Fordyce was thrilled. "Here's proof you can get something back," she said.

Losing valuable things is a common human foible.

The Internet Lost and Found at www.lostandfound.com, online for 3-1/2 years, attempts to connect people who have lost belongings with those who have found them. There are grand success stories, including one involving a springer spaniel recovered the day before a shelter scheduled it for adoption.

James F. R. Loutit, Lost and Found president, said pets were first on the lost list, followed by jewelry. The site has listed 2,800 pieces of lost jewelry since going online, and 970 pieces of found jewelry. The percentage of success is not available.

The most common jewelry listed on the Web site is engagement and class rings. For jewelry, he said, rewards are an important incentive because of its inherent value to the finder. Rewards help people to be honest.

The site offers services including "auto alerts" when something matching one's description of the lost item is found, and ways to specify a given search area.

Michael Solomon, author of "How to Find Lost Objects," also offers a Web site, professorsolomon.com, that provides a 12-step protocol for recovering lost items.

The most common "recovery area," he said, is the automobile. Also check places where you keep other things. For example, you might stash the scissors where you usually put the phone book. Check every pocket in clothing you wore that day and search where you sprawl, including the couch.

"It should be noted that dropping things is not the same as misplacing them," so the principles might not be relevant to Mayer's predicament. But Solomon, a self-described Baltimore "find-ologist," said losing things was a universal problem.

"I haven't met anyone who hasn't met this problem," he said.

Countering claims he has "magical powers," Solomon said he used systematic common sense.

And when all else fails, one final recommendation is to give up the search with dignity. Most things can be replaced, even diamond necklaces, or will be found in due time. "I've had miracle tales of people finding things long after they gave up looking," he said.

Still fueled by frantic despair, Mayer continues searching her house daily as would FBI agents seeking fingerprints and hair samples. If she recovers it, she vows to continue wearing the necklace, but only after it is equipped with a safety clasp.

"I keep thinking it will pop up," she said.

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