By Ken MacLeod, WBZ-TVBy Ken MacLeod

BEDFORD (CBS) – Joan Sawyer’s nightly ring cleaning went awry last week.

“My heart was in my throat,” says the Bedford woman.

Maybe that’s because the ring is a spectacular, priceless diamond heirloom — willed to her by her favorite great aunt.

WBZ-TV’s Ken MacLeod reports

So it wasn’t good when Joan realized the next morning, that she’d tossed the paper towel it was drying on into the bathroom waste basket.

Thing is, that had been emptied into this curbside garbage can, which was then picked-up by the garbage truck — a few hours earlier.


“And I thought to myself ‘I’m never going to get it back,'” says Joan. “But I knew I had to find it — now!”

So Joan and husband Bill worked the phones.

Bedford’s Department of Public Works told them that subcontractor Allied Waste handled that route.

Allied Waste told them that truck number 2444 had picked-up their trash, and that driver Rob Davis was still on the road.

That truck would end up at the Covanta plant in Haverhill, where its trash would be burned among the countless tons brought in from far and wide to create renewable energy.

The Sawyer’s phoned Covanta.

“When they called, the first thing I asked was when it happened,” says Ken Nydam of Covanta, knowing their only chance was to catch the truck before it emptied its load into the mountains of trash at the monstrous facility.

“When they said ‘This morning’ I said ‘Come on down.'”

Joan and a small army of helpers were there to greet the truck late that afternoon when it arrived at Covanta.

“They held my hand and told me it was a ‘needle in a haystack,'” says Joan. “I said ‘I know. But I haven’t given up.'”

They emptied the truck on a stretch of concrete floor in small piles — 10 tons of trash — and began picking through it with heavy equipment and by hand.

But then, the driver of truck 2444 spotted a broken chair he’d picked-up in the Sawyer’s neighborhood — and the search party zeroed-in.

“They poured their hearts into it,” says Bill Sawyer, overwhelmed by those who rallied to help. “We’ll never forget that.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports

When they finally found that little white garbage bag it was ripped open.

But when Bill poked through the contents, out popped the ring, falling at his wife’s feet.

“And I screamed ‘My ring!'” says a grinning Joan. “Then everyone came over and hugged me.”

“Everybody wants to be part of a feel good story,” says Covanta’s Nydam. “We were glad we could help them.”

And after a good cleaning — a bit more careful this time — the Sawyer heirloom is sparkling once again.


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