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
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.
The couple's granddaughter, Kelsey Colbert, who admired both the ring and its story, made her intentions clear to grandpa: she was to inherit the ring.
When Kelsey, who is now 26 and works as a sonographer at Lakeside Women's Hospital, learned she would have to line up behind her grandmother for the ring, she didn't fuss.
Instead, between studies at OU, she wrote her grandmother a letter:
“Thank you for giving me a story to tell my babies one day about Grandpa's ring,” she wrote. “I can just see the look on his face every time he tells me how you unselfishly took his original band (and) gave it a little makeover so that he could wear a symbol of his love for both his wife and the mother of his children.”
But now, the diamond ring is gone and the Pattillos — all three generations — are frantic to recover it.
Pat said he looked everywhere at the lake house for the ring, but first he called his wife back at home in Oklahoma City. She scoured the house and yard and asked the two women her husband walks with each morning to retrace their footsteps.
The next morning, she tore through a trash can at the deli her husband visits nearly every day. Every day she scans the “found” ads in the newspaper. After a week, the search has
“I went through the trash, piece by piece,” Patricia said. “I knew how much it meant to him and I knew how much it meant to Kelsey.”
Her voice cracked, her eyes slipped away, and her husband slapped a hand softly onto her knee.
“Well, it meant a lot to you, too,” he said, and she recovered.
The Pattillos are certain the ring wasn't stolen. Pat said he never took it off for an extended amount of time. More than likely, he said, it was dropped in some tall grass. Or he may have slipped it off his finger and into the trash can while washing his hands after lunch that day.
That's the theory of Patricia, who said her husband has lost several pounds since his cancer treatment. In fact, he already had to switch the ring from his left hand to right hand for that very reason, she said.
“But it was still not snug,” she said.
On Saturday, Kelsey and another grandchild, Jonathan, 30, are taking a metal detector to the trailer at Lake Eufaula. Beyond that, all the Pattillos have left is a little bit of hope for good luck.
HOW TO HELP
Anyone who finds the ring can email Pat and Patricia Pattillo at pattillo@