PAYSON, Ariz. -- Jeff Robbins spent his career sharing stories through his photography for The Associated Press. But these days he's enjoying retirement living in Payson with his wife, Marje, and their two dogs. Although it's been years since he's published anything, Robbins couldn't help but go public with a recent story.
Just before Christmas, as Robbins tossed his recycling into the bin his ring fell in. That ring was a mason ring that Robbins' late father wore for 45 years while married to his mother.
"It has a lot of sentimental value to me because it's basically the last thing I had that my dad had," Robbins explained.
"For him to lose it like that and without any chance of us probably ever finding it, it was very sad," Marje said.
Desperate to find his father's ring, Robbins reached out to Bill Williams, who manages the landfill near Payson.
"He was so sincere about it," Williams said. "It was his father's ring. It meant a lot to him so we wanted to help."
But hope for a miracle quickly vanished.
"As soon as they dumped that thing and all of that trash fell out, I thought, it's gone, there's no way," Marje said.
Armed with a metal detector, Robbins, his wife and the guys at the landfill began the grueling task of combing through the mountain of debris.
"I mean every piece I picked up and put aside, I kept thinking, is it stuck in there?" Gerry Ninniger said.
Robbins remembers the moment the ring was discovered.
"All of a sudden, Bill reaches down and says, he holds it up and says, 'Is this your ring?'" Robbins explained. "And I said, 'Does it have writing inside of it?' and he said, 'Yeah it's got writing.' And it was the ring. It was a great moment, it really was."
"He offered a reward, but we wouldn't take that. That wasn't what it was about," Williams said. "See, I never knew my dad so it kind of got to me that it meant so much to him."
"Then I thought, you know something, things like this probably happen all the time, about people doing nice things, people just kind of accept it and get on with their life and I thought, I'm not going to let this happen," Robbins said.
Which is how 3TV got involved. Shocked yet humbled, Williams couldn't believe it when our crew arrived.
"We thought maybe we would get a mention in the local paper and that would be it, you know, but nothing like this," he said.
The couple had planned to offer the guys a $100 reward, but little did they know the sign posted at the landfill entrance reads: Notice: LANDFILL DOES NOT ACCEPT $100 BILLS.
Robbins said his father's ring slipped off so easily because he recently lost 40 pounds. He told us he's planning to get it resized.