Instead of a charm bracelet, Pat Pattillo wore his memories on a gold ring.
Two wives, four children, a dozen grandchildren and decade of successful retail sales in Oklahoma City were all represented in some form or another on the customized band he wore for 57 years.
But April 26, while watching the news at his family's trailer at Lake Eufaula, Pattillo looked down and it was gone.
“It just left a hole in my stomach,” the 80-year-old said on Thursday, sitting at the dining room table he shares with his second wife, Patricia. “It could have been that day, or it could have been the day before — but I don't think it was two days because I probably would have noticed it.”
The ring was given to him by his first wife, Peggy, when they were married in 1955. He had just returned from Korea and was stationed at Vance Air Force Base.
The center was white gold, the outside edges were yellow gold, and he wore it happily on his left ring finger until Peggy, mother to his four children, was killed in a car accident in 1978.
Then he wore the ring somberly every day for another seven years, until he met Patricia through the girlfriend of a co-worker, John. The first time he saw Patricia was through a pair of binoculars at a University of Oklahoma football game, he said.
Later, while out for drinks, he talked her into giving him a ride back to his car.
“But we didn't go back to get my car — we went to another bar,” he said.
A few drinks, a diner visit and six whirlwind months later the couple were married. Patricia, he said, never fussed about the ring awarded him by his deceased wife.
Ring gets makeover
In fact, she embraced it. The coveted ring was exchanged for a second time at Pat and Patricia's wedding, and Patricia later surprised her new husband by overlaying its center with about a dozen diamonds taken from sales awards pins gathering dust in his bedroom drawer.
“We wanted to make it ours,” the 68-year-old said on Thursday. “You could just tell, when he talked about his first wife, the way his kids talked about their mom — we just talked about her all the time, and you could see the love in his eyes.”
Pat Pattillo was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago and underwent 45 days of intensive radiation therapy.
The treatment was a success, but it may have instilled some concerns for the future in his children and grandchildren.