Traveler returns $24,000 wedding ring found at local rest area

FLORENCE, KY (FOX19) - An Ohio woman has been reunited with her $24,000 wedding ring that she lost at a local rest area on New Year's Day.

Phyllis Steelsmith was en route from Columbus, Ohio to Naples, Florida when she lost the ring with three one-carat diamonds in the restroom of the welcome center on Interstate 75/71 in Florence.

Steelsmith returned to the center to search for it, but the staff was not there due to the New Year's Holiday and she did not find the ring.

Meanwhile, another traveler, Eileen Dillon, from Trenton, Michigan, had stopped at the rest area on her way to Spring Hill, Fla. with her husband, Jeff, and found the ring on the floor. At first, she thought it was costume jewelry, but when she had the ring appraised in Tampa and found it was worth $24,000, she set out to find the rightful owner.

Dillon got in touch with Jeff Thoke, the manager of the welcome center. He tracked down an insurance agent in Dublin, Ohio who had stopped at the Welcome Center to inquire about the ring the day after New Year's, but didn't leave his contact information.

Thoke went through State Farm's central office in Ohio, who sent an e-mail to more than 90 agents in three regions to try to determine who had stopped at the rest area.

Thoke said he and his staff frequently find wallets, purses, credit cards, cell phones and cash regularly and are often able to return the items using ID information and mailing them back to the owners. However, Thoke says the ring was by far the most valuable item ever found at the rest stop.

Steelsmith said she and State Farm will provide a $1,000 reward to Dillon, who will also be honored at the rest area when she returns from Florida to Michigan in April.