First Penny Inman-Orsini lost her husband to cancer.
Then in a tragic irony, she lost the gold bracelet he wore for 47 years as she walked around the Payson High School track June 1 during the Relay for Life effort to raise money for cancer research.
“It was the first time I wore it,” she said, tears rolling down her face.
But wait. The story has a happy ending after all — thanks to a volunteer fireman and an improbable chain of events that says a lot about people, love and fate.
At the start, it seemed like fate had turned on Penny, who flew out from Florida for the event — never intending to wear the costly keepsake for the hours she walked with the other cancer crusaders.
But she wore the bracelet by mistake.
My flight got canceled a few times and I just ended up wearing it,” she said.
Her husband wore the bracelet for 47 years, before losing his life to cancer last year.
Penny came from Florida to participate in Payson’s Relay for Life with her family and their team, Team Inman.
Forty-six people came out to show their support for the Inman family. Penny has lost both a sister and a husband to cancer.
During the Relay, Penny felt for the bracelet each time she rounded the track. During her last round, the bracelet was gone.
The gold chain bracelet not only had immense sentimental value, it also had significant monetary value. Penny knew that whoever found it could make good money selling it with today’s gold prices. Heartbroken, she concluded she would never see her husband’s bracelet again.
But her sister believed otherwise.
“I talked her into staying longer. I knew someone would return it,” Linda Inman-Morris said.
Linda, a Payson local, was right.
Turns out, Adam Richard found the bracelet while walking for Team Inman in the Relay for Life. Richard works for the Payson Senior Center and as a volunteer EMT firefighter for the Gisela Fire Department.
He found the bracelet in front of the Inman’s table and so did not believe someone on that team would have lost it.
“I was walking, looked down and saw it,” he said. “ I put it in my jean’s pocket and forgot about it.”
Relay for Life happened on June 1 — it took Richard a week to remember he had the bracelet when he went to put on the same pair of jeans he wore for the event.
But he had no idea how to find the owner.
“I was going to put it on Trades and Sales,” said Richard.
But then fate twitched — and Richard had a sudden thought.
“I called Linda because I found it 50 feet in front of her booth. She was the first call I made.”
When she got the call, Linda was driving.
“At first she told me to be quiet because she was driving and didn’t want to have an accident,” said Richard.
When Linda asked if the bracelet had the name Fernando inscribed on the front and “from Debby” on the back, Richard knew he had found the rightful owners.
“I wasn’t gonna stop ’til I found someone who owned it,” said Richard.
“He’s a very honest, hard worker,” said Richard’s supervisor Edna Welsheimer. “He donates his extra time to the Senior Center.”
Richard said his parents raised him to be the way he is.
“Both my parents were Salvation Army ministers,” he said.
Delighted and relieved, Linda arranged for Richard to meet her and her sister at the Senior Center to return the bracelet.
The turnover worked out perfectly, with tears and hugs aplenty.
The bracelet was given to Penny’s husband by his ninth grade girlfriend. She subsequently became very good friends of the couple.
Penny plans to give the memento to her granddaughter.
“I’m going to have it inscribed with her name on the front and ‘from Papa’ on the back,” said Penny, “When my granddaughter first read the message on the bracelet, she looked and said, ‘Papa was a busy boy!’”
The sisters laughed at that, then gave a huge double smooch to Richard for offering Penny the chance to pass a piece of history to her granddaughter — and fresh evidence that fate and strangers sometimes conspire.