Guest Column: The Wedding Ring

Casey and Joy King, and their children (from left), Brennan, Shonda and  Dayanna. Casey is deputy chief with the Pensaukee Fire Department. Submitted


Well, it’s January, and Door County folks are nestled in for the winter season. We who love your special place still visit in winter, but the pace slows some as you catch your collective breaths.

Before we pack away 2023 completely, here’s a little Door County adventure story from last year. Call it “The tale of the lost wedding ring.”

It started in June, when my wife and I sat at a corner window table at Sister Bay Bowl, awaiting a perch dinner. As we sipped our drinks, a man walked over from another table. I recognized him immediately as a friend from high school in Green Bay. “Paul Vandeveld,” I said, as we laughed and shook hands. It had been decades since we last crossed paths. We agreed about our mutual love of Door County’s natural glories and exchanged contact information. 

A few weeks later, he reached out from his home in Milwaukee, inviting me to join him at a program sponsored by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Egg Harbor. Turns out he is a generous supporter of TNC’s Great Lakes initiatives, and he knew I had spent many years covering the environment as a writer. 

We met at the Kress Center in Egg Harbor for a Sept. 7 program featuring a remarkable documentary film called All Too Clear: Restoring the Great Lakes, by filmmakers Zack Melnick and Yvonne Drebert of Inspired Planet Productions, Ontario, Canada. In short, the film relied on under-water drones to show the impact of the quagga mussel invasion in the Great Lakes. The drones captured the scene 300 feet below water in Lake Michigan, where the mussels had lived and died, the lake bottom covered with their shells. The film’s title referred to the fact that the lake’s crystal clarity is caused by invasive mussels’ filter-feeding, which robs other aquatic life of sustenance. TNC told of its efforts, including reintroducing key species to restore some balance to the food chain. I plan to write more on this another day. But back to the lost wedding ring. 

Paul and I met the next day for some hiking and exploring. I said maybe we could take a dip in Green Bay, even though the air temperature was in the mid-60s with a cool breeze.

In the late afternoon, when I was about to chicken out on the swim, Paul said “Let’s go,” to which I thought, “I should keep my big mouth shut.”

Off we went to the Sister Bay swim pier at Waterfront Park. Two well-seasoned chaps toddled out to the end of the pier, where we encountered Casey and Joy King and their children, Shonda, Dayanna and Brennon. Casey is deputy chief and an EMT with the Pensaukee Fire Department, across the bay. 

The kids were happily splashing about. I asked Brennon how it was, and he offered an encouraging, “It’s not that bad.” Paul began to lower himself into the water from the ladder. I decided it was best to do it all at once and jumped off the pier, gracefully taking in a mouthful of water. Then, something worse happened. My skin immediately shrunk in the mid-60s-ish water, and my wedding ring slipped off my finger, to the bottom, about 5 feet below. A fine mess it was, but the King family came to the rescue. They had good diving masks, and Shonda offered me hers. I fitted it, took a breath, dove down and searched, and searched, and searched. Paul stood at the pier, near a watchful Casey, pointing out where I was standing when the ring slipped off. 

After a dozen or so dives, I was about ready to give up but gave it one more try, and there, resting atop the sandy bottom, was my little gold band. I carefully reached down, pinched it between my thumb and forefinger, and came up, lifting it above my head, to the cheers of our little group. 

“Now don’t lose it again,” Shonda said, and we all had a good laugh. I wondered whether the mussels had a role in the water’s clarity at Sister Bay, but that was for another day. 

By the time we were back on the beach, Paul, always a good storyteller, was sharing news of our adventure with others. And I have shared it myself more than once, as my wife will attest.

Bill Berry is a writer who lives in Stevens Point. He has minimal experience in underwater search efforts.