Incredible reunion more than 55 years in the making
CENTRALIA, Wash. -- A good logger knows that every branch has a trunk, every trunk has a root and every root has a story.
One such story connected a lumberjack with a complete stranger who lives nearly 3,000 miles away.
The story starts back in 1959 when a couple, Hugh and Hazel Wharton, went missing while flying their 4-seat plane over western Washington.
"He was a very experienced pilot and they flew that morning out of Portland to Seattle and never arrived," said Joyce Wharton, the couple's daughter.
Fourteen years later, Washington hunters discovered the crash site just a few miles outside of Centralia.
"At that time they really didn't find anything -- they found my dad's wallet and a few little buttons," said Joyce.
The root of the story took more than a quarter of a century to surface, though.
"It was a little small cedar tree and I'm digging in the roots and flipped that ring out," said logger Nick Buchanan.
Buchanan found a gold diamond ring while on a hike in 1997. He knew it had to belong to the couple who died in the plane crash back in 1959.
For nearly 20 years he kept the ring safe.
"I never once though it belonged to me," said Nick. "I just was hoping that there was a daughter or a family member that I could turn it over to," said Buchanan.
Recently Nick's nephew and a friend did some research online which led them to Joyce in New Jersey.
"Sunday morning he called me and he asked me some questions," said Joyce. "He says 'I've been looking for you.' Then he said 'Joyce, I found your mother's wedding ring and I want to give it back to you.'"
Joyce received the ring in the mail on Wednesday.
"It's a five-stone band," she said.
Five stones for every decade it took to make it back home.
"You just think it's impossible to get a ring back after all those years," she said.
"Had the tree grown just a few more years, it would have been covered up forever," Nick said.
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