Michelle Cronch wiped tears from her eyes as she sat at a table at McDonald’s in Steger, Ill., tightly gripping a small plastic bag to her heart.
Inside the bag was a treasured possession, her white gold wedding band.
“I thought I’d never see it again,” she said through the tears recently.
The bagger and utility clerk at Strack and Van Til in Schererville, who lives in Whiting, lost her wedding band and engagement ring while working her New Year’s Day shift at the grocer. The loss was especially hard to bear for the recent widow. Cronch’s husband of 34 years, Donald, died in November after an unexpected illness.
Since then, times have been tough for the 61-year-old, who had to move out of the home the couple had shared and move in with her children for financial reasons.
Her son-in-law, Rob Triemstra, of Thornton, Ill., said he could not stand to see Cronch heartbroken. When the rings were not turned in to the grocery store, he talked to his wife Dawn before taking to social media to post about his mother-in-law’s misfortune and ask the community’s help in locating the treasured wedding set.
He posted to his personal Facebook page and then shared it on a local buy-and-sell Facebook page. The Dolton, Ill., firefighter said firefighters from different departments who saw the post also shared it. The initial post was cross-posted, ultimately receiving more than 2,000 shares by Thursday night.
“It just blows my mind,” Triemstra said. He had witnessed the power of social media for other causes and thought it was worth a try. Dawn Triemstra, Cronch’s daughter, say they never expected the post to be successful in locating the ring.
“I had no idea when I made the post it would get as big as it did,” Triemstra said. “It’s just amazing. It’s so good. It’s been shared on seven or eight different buy and sell sites. It’s unreal,” Triemstra said.
Dawn Triemstra said she is proud to be part of the firefighting community, which rallied behind her husband’s post and help to share it far and wide.
“I’m very lucky to be married to a firefighter just because of the brotherhood through the fire department,” she said. “It’s the power of social media.”
All the shares paid off.
Taryn Mirich, of Crown Point, responded to Treimstra’s post with a photo of the wedding band she found Jan. 1 in her grocery bag. She saw the post shared by a friend who is a firefighter. The two families later learned they had mutual friends.
“It’s a very small world,” Mirich said.
Her husband found the ring in the bottom of a bag when he was helping put away groceries. The engagement ring, however, was not there.
“I’m just happy to be able give it back,” Mirich said.
Rob Triemstra described Mirich’s actions as heartwarning.
“It is seriously an after-Christmas miracle,” he said.
Cronch’s story doesn’t end with just the one ring.
An anonymous Strack and Van Til shopper returned the engagement ring to the service desk, Rob Triemstra said. Earlier, the Triemstras said it is a miracle that the band was located.
“The fact that the wedding band was found is more important. That’s the most important piece,” Dawn Triemstra said.
Cronch said she believes her late husband is watching over her and helped make sure her ring found its way home.
“I feel great. This is the most happy event in my life now,” Cronch said. “There are still good Samaritans in this world.”
Carrie Napoleon is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.