Thirty-five years ago, Robert De Vincenzi '76 lost one of his most precious possessions in the ocean: his Wagner College class ring. While he was splashing in the warm Atlantic waters of the Bahamas, the ring slipped from his finger and instantly disappeared in the waves and sand.
Six weeks ago, the ocean returned to steal from him again: But this time, it grabbed not just one prized object, but everything he owned, as the Atlantic Ocean drove into the coast of Staten Island, devouring his home in a 12-foot surge from Superstorm Sandy.
But, to fracture a quotation from the world's most patient sufferer: “The ocean has taken away, and the ocean gives back — blessed be the name of the ocean.”
I say that because a few weeks ago, something magical happened at those very same waters that took away Robert's class ring 35 years ago.
A newlywed couple from southeastern Missouri, Randy and Linda Wilkinson, were taking a honeymoon cruise of the Bahamas, when they disembarked on Nassau and decided to relax for a while on Junkanoo Beach. They had just stretched their legs out on the warm sand, when a nearby object caught their eye.
It was a ring — a large, bulky ring. Its elaborate engravings were obscured by green corrosion and encrusted with tiny shells. But, the year 1976 was visible on one side. Clearly, it was a class ring. The Wilkinsons stashed it away in their shipboard cabin.
Back home in Cape Girardeau, they took the ring to their friends, Kent and Vicki Zickfield, at Zickfield's Jewelry. For about a week, the Zickfields gently worked on cleaning it, until they could see a name engraved on the inside: Robert De Vincenzi.
The Wilkinsons contacted the alumni office at Wagner College and spoke with Rebecca Colucci '06. They told her what they had found, and she went to work on finding Robert De Vincenzi.
It wasn't easy; she didn't know that the reason the telephone number in the College's records didn't work was that his house and all that was in it had been destroyed by the ocean.
But, there was one constant in Robert's life: Working in the business office of the Fulton Fish Market. And that's how Rebecca found Robert, and connected Robert to Randy and Linda, and reconnected Robert with his long-lost ring, thrown up by the sea as if in expiation for all it had taken.
“We cannot imagine how you have been affected by Hurricane Sandy, and what you have already gone through,” Randy wrote to Robert after they talked on the phone. “I remember when we were sitting on the beach, I told Linda that more than likely Sandy washed the ring up on the beach. After talking to you today, and hearing a little about Sandy's impact on you, I am convinced that is the case. Maybe you lost your ring over 30 years ago so that I could be reminded that God cares about even the smallest things in our lives.”
“Wonderful. Ecstatic. Overwhelmed. Words can't describe how I feel,” is what Robert said when he was reunited with his ring on December 12 at Wagner College's Reynolds House, in a lobby bedecked with holiday lights and ornaments.
Robert said that he has not only regained his ring, but also made new friends. “They told me that I now have friends in Missouri, and I told them that they now have a friend in New York,” he said.
“God bless them. I hope to see them soon.”
— Laura Barlament, Editor, Wagner Magazine, December 12, 2012
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