Fellowship of a ring: Cape couple finds, returns class ring to Superstorm Sandy victim

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Robert De Vincenzi’s long-lost ring

About the time Hurricane Sandy was ravaging Robert De Vincenzi's home on New York's Staten Island, Randy and Linda Wilkinson of Cape Girardeau were enjoying a vacation in the Bahamas.

During a beach stroll on their November honeymoon, soon after Sandy wracked the East Coast, the couple found a coral-encrusted ring on the beach. It belonged to De Vincenzi, and the Wilkinsons theorize the storm's massive effect on the ocean could have helped wash the ring ashore.

Regardless of that theory's veracity, the New York man who lost his college class ring in the Bahamas 35 years ago has newlyweds from Cape Girardeau to thank for getting it returned to him. And finding the ring, De Vincenzi said, helped take some of the sting out of losing his home to Sandy's power.

Robert De Vincenzi inside his Midland Beach home on Monday

"I bless Randy and Linda Wilkinson for getting my ring back to me," said De Vincenzi during a telephone interview from the New York City borough of Staten Island. "There should be more people like them."

On the newlyweds' beach walk, Randy Wilkinson noticed something out of the ordinary had been washed ashore.

"It stuck out for some reason," Wilkinson said. "I knew it wasn't a shell or a rock. I picked it up and saw it was a ring that was partially green and encrusted in coral. But I could make out, 'Wagner College, Class of 1976.'"

Wilkinson said after he and his wife returned to Cape Girardeau from their honeymoon, he contacted Wagner College, located on Staten Island. He wasn't able to tell them much more than he'd found a Wagner class ring in the Bahamas that was in bad shape. He decided to have the ring cleaned so the identity of its owner could be determined.

"My wife and I took the ring to a jewelry store in Cape to see if they could remove the buildup," Wilkinson said. "The store used acids and other cleaning agents, but they weren't really effective. But they didn't want to give up, and neither did we. Finally they were able to read a name on the inside of the ring."

The name was Robert De Vincenzi.

Randy & Linda Wilkinson during their honeymoon.

Armed with the new information, Wilkinson again contacted Wagner College and told them the name of their alumnus who had once possessed the ring. A representative from the college asked Wilkinson to send the ring and they would try to locate De Vincenzi. After several failed attempts they were able to locate him at his place of business last Friday.

"They couldn't find me because of Sandy," said Robert De Vincenzi. "I had to relocate into an apartment, and that kept Wagner of finding me at what used to be my home. They tracked me down at my business phone number."

De Vincenzi also recounted the circumstances of how he lost his class ring in the Bahamas in 1977.

"Oh, you can imagine the scene," he said. "A bunch of guys vacationing in the Bahamas, splashing around in the water. Then, wouldn't you know it, off went the ring into the ocean. There was no way to find it and honestly, I'd never gotten over it. It was always such a loss for me."

De Vincenzi experienced a greater loss than a ring when Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the Northeast, causing a reported 60 deaths in New York alone and billions of dollars in damage to commercial and private property. De Vincenzi's home near Staten Island Beach was not spared.

"It had over 12 feet of water in it after Sandy," De Vincenzi said. "It's still standing but was, and is, unfit to live in. I'm still waiting for word on whether or not I'll be allowed to rebuild. It's been a tough time."

But De Vincenzi's outlook brightened when he received the call from his alma mater on Friday.

"They told me, 'Robert, a honeymoon couple from Missouri has found your class ring in the Bahamas.' I couldn't believe it. I've lost my home, but something dear to me from the past had been returned. It was a blessing to get that call. It couldn't have come at a better time."

De Vincenzi will finally have his lost ring returned to him today during a small ceremony on the campus of Wagner College. He said he can't wait to get it on his finger again, but he also said he understands the higher significance of the occasion.

"It's a message of God," he said. "This shows he cares about the smallest of things. I had my house taken away but he gave me back something that meant so much."

Randy Wilkinson shares De Vincenzi's assessment.

"For whatever the reason, God wanted to give that ring back to Robert, and I'm thankful that (God) chose Linda and I to help him do it. The ring won't help him get back into his house, but I know it will go a long way in making him feel better."

Randy and Linda Wilkinson will be unable to attend the presenting of Robert De Vincenzi's ring at Wagner College, but they do plan to meet him during a trip to Connecticut in January. They have recently spoken to De Vincenzi over the telephone, and Randy Wilkinson hopes the ceremony is meaningful for him.

"It will be a time for him to enjoy what he has, not what he has lost. That goes for all of us, really."



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