Sunset at Poipu Beach on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. (Los Angeles Times )
While visiting the Hawaiian island of Kauai, Marion Levy of Los Angeles spent some time on Poipu Beach. The ocean was rougher than she expected, and she said she had to body surf back to shore. “This was not my intention as I am 75 years old,” she wrote to us in a letter that is publishing in the Oct. 24 Los Angeles Times Travel section.
About an hour after she got back to shore, her heart sank when she glanced down at her hands: Her wedding ring, a cherished keepsake that carried an inscription from 1896, was gone.
She asked the beach attendants what to do and was given contact information for Dutch Medford, a local treasure hunter who specializes in tracking down jewelry. She met him on the beach at 7 the next morning. She wasn't hopeful and was even less so when the first wave knocked Medford over. At his instruction, she returned to the condo to await his call.
Medford had found it. That brought to nearly $1 million the amount of lost treasures that he and his wife, Pam, have returned to their owners in more than two decades of doing this. (That dollar estimate is based on what the owners think the piece is worth.)
“This is a hobby and not a business,” Medford told me in an e-mail. “We started out not accepting anything…but we ran across a few instances where the people were so grateful to get their jewelry…that we were told [of the proffered reward], ‘Take it or I will kick your back side.’
“We now work on reward basis; whether the person wants to offer a reward or not is fine with us. Over the last 21 years, most people say ‘thank you’ with big hugs for our service. This is [our] way of extending the Aloha Sprit on our beautiful island of Kauai.”
Sometimes he finds things that he's not looking for. Recently on Oahu, he found a 1924 West Point ring.
"I traced the family down using alumni records but unfortunately didn't get to return it to the owner, who died in 1952," Medford told me. "But I did find his oldest son, who graduated from West Point, and returned it to him, 60 years after it was lost."
He also managed to return (after a five-month search) a ring with a family crest that a grandson lost off Poipu. You'll probably recognize the name of the grandfather who gave him that ring: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Medford asked me to mention one more thing
“Please include the warning not to wear any jewelry in the ocean. As soon as you enter the water in Hawaii, your ring finger shrinks up to one full ring size. Add to this the suntan lotion, the wave action and the natural slickness of the water that will cause rings to slip off of fingers, a lot of times without the owner even realizing the ring is lost.”
Medford’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org; his phone is (808) 651-5470.