Robert Nese has done it again.
The Lemont man found another priceless ring with his metal detector. But this time, he set out to accomplish the feat.
About six weeks earlier in a field near his home, Nese, 19, unearthed a 1962 State College Area High School class ring, tracked down the local woman who had lost it playing softball 52 years before and returned the treasure.
For his next act, Nese recently pulled a gold wedding band out of the murky lake at Whipple Dam State Park. He didn’t have to go to nearly as much trouble to find the owner.
All he had to do was walk out of the water.
Jim Campbell stood on the beach, ecstatic about the recovery and relieved beyond belief.
Campbell, of State College, had been swimming with his grandson a week before. In a gut-wrenching second, the symbol of his 41-year marriage vanished in the tea-colored water.
“It just slipped off,” he said. “As soon as I dove in, I felt it slip off my finger. It was sickening.”
He, his grandson and two boys searched in vain. Campbell drove home with a heavy heart.
Then that week, he recalled a Centre Daily Times article about Nese’s class ring adventure. He had grown up in Lemont, knew the fortunate woman’s family and had been impressed by Nese’s detecting talents.
Maybe the young man could bail him out.
But there was a problem. Campbell couldn’t remember Nese’s name, and the old story had long gone into the recycling.
A trip to the local library revealed Nese’s identity. Then Campbell needed to find him.
That proved not too hard, thanks to the Penn State online directory. Campbell sent Nese, who works on campus, an email plea for assistance and got a swift response.
They met at Whipple Dam the next day, in the early evening after the crowds had left.
Nese faced a new challenge. Campbell’s ring lay somewhere at least 3 feet down, and Nese had never taken his detector underwater before. The manual promised it was waterproof, but you never know.
“I was a little skeptical,” Nese said.
But he was game.
Searching a “box” where Campbell had been swimming, Nese waded up to his waist and lower chest with his immersed detector.
“I was all over the place,” he said. “I couldn’t see the bottom at all.”
He had calibrated his detector on Ellen Campbell’s gold ring, a smaller version of her husband’s band. So when his detector registered a similar numerical reading on a hit, Nese stopped.
Campbell was getting worried — about Nese as his dip in the cold water stretched close to an hour.
“The sun was going down, and I was thinking we better call this off,” Campbell said. “This guy’s going to freeze.”
Nese took Campbell’s shovel, plunged in and began digging.
The first two scoops yielded just sand and debris.
Paydirt rested on top of the third, magically glinting.
“I took it out and held it up,” Nese said. “I was as happy as he was.”
Campbell, who felt as though he “had lost a friend,” cheered with his wife and Nese’s girlfriend on the beach.
“What a great kid to do this,” he said. “He was freezing.”
Nese could have future encores. After his mother posted a Facebook account of his triumph, a friend suggested he contact the owner of www.ringfinders.com, an global online directory of metal detectors for hire.
He did so, and the site owner added him to the site. Now he’s listed among about 160 available experts in the United States — one of five in Pennsylvania and about 400 worldwide — ready to help people find lost valuables.
Copying his site peers, he’ll charge a variable fee based on the recovered item’s worth, plus $25 for gas and other expenses.
He’s not counting on financial gain. Rather, he said, he’s doing it mainly as a public service, with the discovery itself most of the reward.
“I hope so,” Nese said when asked if he anticipates calls. “Because there’s nothing like finding a ring for somebody.”