Gerald Wieduwilt and I were shipmates on the U.S.S. Thornback. He owned one of those
small “pumpkin seed” class racing boats that was just big enough for one person that he
kept near the bay, at a friend’s house. When he sat in the cockpit he had to sit on his
knees, with his legs folded back under him. The boat was obviously not designed for
comfort, but only for speed.
The engine was an old Evinrude outboard that had been tweaked out about as far as it
could go, and was believed to have about 42 horsepower. It was cantankerous and hard
to get running most of the time. Wieduwilt was an Electronics Technician and I was a nuts
and bolts Engineman, so during times when it wasn't running right I tried to help him out.
I wasn’t with him the day he got it running real good. The ocean was very calm, so he
ventured from the bay in Key West on out into the Gulf of Mexico. He was able to run at
full speed for awhile, then the engine quit about a mile from land. He pulled and pulled on
the starter cord and on one of those pulls his high school class ring flew off his finger into
the water. He watched the ring twirling down into the ocean, glittering until it slowly
disappeared. Heartsick, he finally got the engine going and went on back to Key West.
Later that very same day I happened to be Scuba Diving with another friend off the Florida
Keys. We anchored the diving boat about a mile off shore, making sure there were no
other boats in the water anywhere near us. I went over the side and went down about 20
feet, just enjoying the coral and colorful fish along bottom of the ocean. I was about half
way through my dive when I saw something glittering on the bottom. A closer look showed
it was a shiny gold ring, just lying there on the white sand. I picked it up and slipped it on
my finger, wearing it there until I had finished my dive.
It was a nice ring, so I wore it for the next few days. It had “Class of 56” on it, with a blue
stone that had one corner chipped off. I noted the custom initials on it were “G.W.” I don't
usually wear rings, so I began wondering if I might know anyone with those initials who I
could give it to.
The only people I knew in Key West were guys I was in the Navy with, so I thought it was
quite a coincidence when Gerald Wieduwilt’s name popped into my mind. When I looked
at the ring a little closer, I could see “Omaha.” I knew that Wieduwilt was from Omaha, but
that had to be impossible.
Gerald and I were both in the Control Room when I cautiously asked him if he’d lost a ring.
He said, “yes,” and told me exactly how he had lost it. I asked him to describe it for me and
he described it perfectly. I couldn’t resist being a bit ceremonious when I said, “well, here it
is…” and handed it to him.
It was very spooky. Neither of us had any idea that the other had been out on the ocean
that day, especially to the very same spot on that huge ocean. We didn't know until we
shared our stories there in the Control Room.
I still think about that ring. And, I know Gerald does too...