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Beachcombers Reunite People With Lost Treasures

first_imgLarry Friedel displays a silver earring he recently found under about a foot of beach sand in Ocean City. By TIM KELLYThe lifeguard knew something was wrong.A woman was on her hands and knees, digging through the beach sand. Oh, and she was sobbing.The woman told the lifeguard she had lost both her wedding ring and her engagement ring, antique jewelry given to her by her grandmother.Who you gonna call? Larry Friedel, beachcomber, that’s who.“Some of the Beach Patrol people know me,” said Friedel, 68, who has plied his tools of the metal detecting hobby for almost six decades now.“I started out when I was 10. When I was a kid I always found enough items of value to pay for a nice lunch or a night on the Boardwalk,” he recalled.On this particular afternoon, the woman told Friedel she took the rings off to avoid losing them. However, as what frequently happens on the beach, she lost track of the time and that she had placed the rings on a towel. She shook the towel off to remove the loose sand and didn’t remember doing so until sometime later and by then, the jewelry was nowhere to be found.Enter Larry Friedel, a lifelong Ocean City visitor and longtime homeowner, as well as owner of the 7th Street Surf Shops. The woman pinpointed a rectangular section of the beach about 20-by-30 feet and Friedel went to work.“It took me about 15 minutes to find the rings,” he said, almost embarrassed. “If the person is able to narrow down the location like that, it’s not usually too difficult.”That can also be true if the item is lost in the ocean, Friedel noted. A few weeks ago, a woman lost one of her silver earrings while surfing on an Ocean City beach. Like the woman on the dry sand, this person was able to point out an area where she was likely separated from the jewelry.Once again, the outcome resulted in finding the silver bauble, and in a matter of minutes.“It was incredible,” said the woman, who wished to remain anonymous. “I thought I’d never get it back.”Instead, Friedel donned his headphones and began sweeping the area with his waterproof metal detector, found a “hit” a short time later, dug down a few feet and there it was. Another found item, another grateful person.“It’s not always so easy,” he said. For one thing, “it’s really hard to tell the difference between a coin or a ring and a beer can pop top or a piece of a shredded beer can. But for every 10 or 15 pieces of junk, I’m also going to find two or three things worth keeping.”Metal detecting is a popular activity on beaches around the world. (Courtesy of Getty Images)It’s all in a day’s fun for Friedel.“Really, metal detecting is just another thing to get me onto the beach and into the water,” said the avid surfer (and member of the New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame), fisherman, and diver. “It’s relaxing, almost a zen-like experience.”Friedel likes to search for things in the late afternoon when he takes a break after a day at his business and prior to going back to work into the evening.“Sometimes I’ll take a fishing rod,” he said. “But other times, I’ll take my metal detector along. It’s a very calming way to unwind during a break at work.”John Favano takes a more structured approach. He offers a service, Ring Finders South Jersey, which is in the quasi-business of finding lost jewelry and other valuables on the beach and in the ocean.He charges expenses (usually parking, tolls and gas) whether or not he finds the item, but if he does find it, he gratefully accepts a reward or as he calls it, an “honorarium,” which he generally puts back into the service.Recently he was called to a local beach and found a woman’s two-week-old engagement ring in “about five minutes,” he said.Friedel and Favano both said the true reward is to see the relief and gratitude on the face of the person they helped.Metal detectors have been seen around local beaches since the 1960s. They use sonar to identify metal objects buried up to 14 inches. Since the tides are constantly moving sand around, items can quickly sink deeper than that. However, storms, tides, beach replenishment projects and other factors frequently stir up the sand and bring with it items long lost.For example, Friedel once reunited a man with his high school class ring 20 years after he found it.“The ring had his initials on it, and of course the date he graduated,” Friedel explained. “There was only one person with those initials, and he was still living in the Philadelphia area (where the high school was located). He was really excited to get it back. It was interesting to call and ask, ‘Did you lose your high school class ring?’ He was pleasantly shocked.”John Favano of Ring Finders with the tools of the trade on a local beach.A good metal detector can cost between $600 and $1,200, depending on the desired features, he said.Friedel likes to combine his love of diving with metal detecting, particularly in Florida’s so-called Treasure Coast, around the Ft. Pierce area, where numerous ancient shipwrecks rest in watery graves.He’s found gold Spanish coins and “pieces of eight” or denominations of those coins commonly known as two, four or six “bits” of gold.Over the years, Friedel has found such items as an exact replica of the ring from the classic fantasy book and film “Lord of the Rings,” silver, diamonds and much more.“It’s nice to give things away as that I find,” he said, mentioning a relative who admired a certain ring that Friedel had found and presented as a holiday gift.“It’s nice to hear years later how much she loves that ring and wears it all the time,” he added.He said clearing the beaches of the junk they find such as fish hooks and sharp pieces of metal cans that could injure beachgoers is an added benefit of the hobby.There’s also the connection with the past, which gives Friedel satisfaction.“You hold a piece of gold currency in your hand from the 1700s and it gives you a sense of the humanity we share over the many years,” he said. “Here is something man-made and exchanged for goods, no different than today’s money. You realize you’re a part of preserving that history.”If you’re interested: Ring Finders of South Jersey can be found on Facebook by visiting https://www.facebook.com/lostringfinder.john.favano/For hobbyists, the South Jersey Metal Detecting Club has monthly digs and provides a social setting for enthusiasts to find metal detecting partners and to swap tips and tales of interesting finds. They can be reached at [email protected]last_img read more

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