OCEAN CITY, N.J. ⏤ Kathleen DelVecchio looked at her right wrist and gasped. Her gold-link bracelet was gone.
Around dusk on June 26, the recently widowed 80-year-old raced back to the 55th Street beach where she assumed she’d dropped it, and frantically ran her hands through the cooling sand.
Her husband, Jack, had bought her the bracelet at a jewelry shop in the U.S. Virgin Islands about 30 years ago. She’d worn it every day since.
Jack, a retired Philadelphia cop, died of colon cancer April 13. They’d been married for 58 years.
She just lost Jack. And now, the bracelet, too?
DelVecchio called her oldest daughter, Kathy Gregory, to tell her the news. When she pulled her beach cover-up over her head, the bracelet must have caught on a hole in the material and unclasped.
Gregory tried to downplay the loss.
“It’s just a thing,” she told her mother.
But she knew better. “It’s another part of my dad just not there,” Gregory said later.
DelVecchio and her husband grew up near what is now the sports complex in South Philadelphia, but they didn’t meet and marry until their mid-20s. He joined the police force, she sold advertising for the Bulletin, and they eventually settled with their three daughters in the Northeast.
They spent their summers in Wildwood and Sea Isle.
“In Philly, that’s what you do,” Gregory said.
Gregory posted a Facebook message June 29 with a close-up photo of the bracelet.
DelVecchio, who is Catholic, started praying to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things.
They called the police. They called the beach patrol, where a guard said lost items can show up months later.
DelVecchio had no idea what the 14-karat-gold bracelet was worth, but to her it was priceless.
“It’s a memory,” she said. “I sleep with it and everything.”
The family began to think the worst: What if a sleuth with a metal detector stumbled upon it? What if the tide took it out? Even if someone found it, would they give it back?
Newlyweds Devin Deanna and Andrew Shendock of Hammonton were hanging out with a friend on the beach in Ocean City when they saw something gleaming in the sand.
Nestled just below the surface of the 55th Street beach — where thousands of vacationers crisscross every day at the height of vacation season — was a gold bracelet.
On June 30 — 4½ days after DelVecchio lost her bracelet — they plucked a golden treasure out of the sand like a seashell.
Hours later, when Deanna relayed the discovery to her new mother-in-law, “she said, ‘Wow, that could be sentimental to someone,’ ” Deanna recalled. “You never know the story behind it.”
The next day, her mother-in-law happened to see Gregory’s Facebook post, which had been shared nearly 4,000 times, including by a friend of hers.
She forwarded the post to Deanna, who replied to Gregory’s now-viral post with a photo of the bracelet and the message: “Found on 55th.”
When her daughter broke the news of the find, DelVecchio burst into tears, having assumed the bracelet was lost to the sands of time.
“Bad things happen to good people all the time, and especially in the world we live in today,” Gregory said. “But there are so many people just like them who do the right thing.”
Thirteen days after DelVecchio lost the bracelet, she got it back.
And on Saturday she and her family met Deanna and her family at the 55th Street beach so DelVecchio, with the bracelet once again gracing her wrist, could say thank you.
“Great to see it back on you,” Deanna said.
“I’ll tell ya," DelVecchio said, “ I couldn’t imagine being without it."
Before departing, DelVecchio and Deanna embraced in the same spot on the beach where the lost-and-found tale came full circle.
One woman learning to cope with the end of her marriage, the other just starting hers.