GROVE CITY —
Stephen Vago's wedding ring seemed to vanish during Christmas four years ago --but like a long-lost love was simply waiting to be rediscovered.
"It's one of the best wedding ring stories I've heard," said the 37-year-old Grove City man.
"It's quite remarkable," added his wife, Courtney Vago, 34.
The story began with a visit to the turkey section at County Market in Pine Township "right before Christmas" in 2008, Mr. Vago said.
"It was a cold day and we were out shopping. I pointed at one of the items and I looked away and my ring flew off my finger, I think because it was so cold," he said. "I heard it go into something in the meat case." Store workers emptied the case to try and find the wedding ring, to no avail. "They said they'd look when they cleaned it out," said Vago, who would check to see if he could spot his wedding band on later visits to the store.
"He was the most faithful one, going back every day, then every week, and then every couple of months, asking," Courtney said.
"I never gave up hope. I'd look under things," Vago added. I thought it rolled underneath something, but I definitely couldn't have imagined we'd find it." After a couple of months, "We chalked it up to being gone," Courtney said. "We weren't expecting to ever find it again."
The Vagos often told people their ring story, and folks would either laugh, not believe them or think it was "kind of bizarre," her husband said. "We told the story constantly."
In the meantime, the Vagos moved to Colorado from Grove City 11/2 years ago after Courtney got a job in admissions at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She had been working in the same department at Grove City College before the move.
However, the couple returned to the area after Courtney was hired last spring as the assistant director of career services at GCC; her husband is now the senior admission counselor at the college.
Their wedding ring tale began a new chapter four weeks ago.
For months, County Market has been undergoing a large-scale renovation, and new flooring was being laid near the meat section, said Bob Kennedy, store manager.
A worker from Meadville Floors found Vago's platinum wedding band after removing a panel at the bottom of the meat case, to be able to install some of the flooring under the refrigeration unit.
"We didn't find it before, because the gentleman who lost it thought it was inside the case," Kennedy said. "I knew immediately who it belonged to and I put it up in my desk. I hadn't seen them for a while and stuck it up there, hoping I'd see them again."
On Sept. 16, the Vagos walked into County Market.
"As soon as I looked at them, I knew it was them," said Kennedy, who hurried up to get the wedding ring to return it.
"He had been looking for us for several weeks to see if we'd come in the store," Vago added. "It was a real blessing from God. It's just an amazing story. I couldn't believe it. I shook his hand. He was so happy."
Kennedy left a half hour late from the store that day for various reasons, and saw the Vagos during that overtime period. "Of all the Sundays I could have been here late," he said "It's a very strange situation. I felt it was supposed to be."
The band was "definitely something of value," Vago added. "I'm thankful to God they found it. They could have put it in their pocket but were honest. They do a really great job at County Market. They're so connected to the community."
"It's just amazing," his wife said. "I just can't say enough about the staff at County Market."
"I think the story talks about the moral fabric of the community," added Dave Knopp Jr., partner with County Market, who knows that the flooring installer or a store employee could have kept the ring.
"I just had a meeting with my staff and told them how proud I am of them," he said.
Another contractor during the renovation recently told Knopp that, with the hundreds of stores he's worked with in the country, "our staff was the nicest," he added. "We are truly fortunate to have such a great group of people working here."
After losing his wedding ring, Vago purchased a silver band to show the world he was hitched, but it could have never replaced the original, he said.
Even if he got a replica, the original "has meaning because of the wedding and what it signifies. It was tough to get the same one again because it didn't hold that meaning," Vago said.
He and his wife were married for seven years when the ring was lost. He is from Butler; she, a native of Redlands, Calif. They met while attending Grove City College.
The reunion with the wedding ring makes their union all the more special. "It brings back memories of our wedding in California 11 years ago," Courtney said.
The ring story also gives them a completed, "hilarious" tale to tell their friends and loved ones, Vago said.
"We were, ironically, in almost in the same meat section," he added, when approached by Kennedy with the wedding ring two weeks ago.
"Being back in Grove City this year has been a real blessing. This was the icing on the cake," Courtney said. "It makes me think of the theme of restoration."
Her husband didn't put away the replacement ring when getting the original one back, however. The silver ring sits on his left ring finger; the platinum, on the right, Vago said.
The silver one "fits better," he said, "and I don't want to lose (the original) again."
Published Sept. 29, 2012. Pick up a copy at 201A Erie St., Grove City.