A Family Heirloom

Having lost my paternal grandfather at an early age, my Pépère * (the name we used for my maternal grandfather) and I were very close. Regular visitors here on FOF may recall past posts in which I have talked MemerePepere2about him.

* Pépère is a French word for Grandfather - pronounced "Pep-a" (long a)

My Pépère wore a very nice diamond ring for as long as I could remember. After my Pépère unexpectedly passed away (when I was twelve years old), I spent a lot of time with my Mémère * (the name we used for my maternal grandmother. Another factoid I have talked about in previous posts). While staying with her, Mémère would (from time to time) remind me that it was Pépère's wish that his diamond ring would someday be passed on to me, and that she was safekeeping the ring until such time that I was mature enough to care for it. In the meantime, she commissioned duplicates made for all of Pep's sons (my uncles), but it was Pépère's wishes that I receive the original.

* Mémère is a French word for Grandmother - pronounced Mem-a (long a)

The time came when my Mémère fell ill (when I was 14 years old), and ultimately lost her battle with cancer. Prior to passing, Mémère gave the ring to my Mother; with a similar set of instructions (with one small modification being made). Mémère made allowances for my father to wear the ring (if he wished) until the time came that they felt it was right for me to have the ring.

Over the past twenty-seven years, I have seen my father wear the ring. Possession and ownership of a valuable diamond ring is really more of an "abstract idea" to a 12 - 14 year old. I knew it would one day be my ring, but in the mean time, it was a ring that my dad wore. After a good number of years (don't ask me the number... I could not tell you) my dad stopped wearing the ring, and put it back into "safekeeping".

Knowing that my parents were "safekeeping" the ring, the passage of time, and distractions like starting a career and my own (large) family (and all the responsibilities that go with that) allowed the ring to drift from the forefront of my mind. I don't want to say I completely forgot about it, but I guess you could say it slipped my mind. Once every couple of years or so, something would jog my parents' memory, and they would bring up the fact that someday they would turn the ring over to me.

For the past couple of years now, the dialog has changed a bit. Instead of saying that the ring would be mine "someday", they have sort of "transitioned" into reminding me that the ring is available to me when I felt I wanted it. To be honest, I was never really in a big hurry to get it. I guess you could say I had faith that somehow, and in some way Pépère and Mémère would let Mom & Dad know when the time was right.

Last weekend, we went over to my parent's house to celebrate a late Easter. With both my 40th birthday, and #4 of 5's First Communion falling on the same date (a week later), they felt the time was right to pass along the gift Pépère wanted to give me twenty nine years ago. Not only is it a "milestone" birthday for me, but I will be able to wear the ring (proudly) at their great-granddaughter's First Holy Communion. It will be like they are there with me.

I cried with my mom as her dad's (my Pépère's) ring was passed to me. They were both tears of sorrow for missing my grandparents so very much, and tears of happiness knowing that my Pépère's wishes had finally come to fruition.

Family-Heirlom2 This ring holds a TREMENDOUS value to me. The last time the ring was appraised was in 1982, and at that time it was estimated at a surprisingly high value (enough to make me do a double-take...), yet regardless of what the "appraised value" is, the number associated to the value of the ring is a MEANINGLESS figure to me. I am incapable of putting a number on its SENTIMENTAL value.

Sentimentally, this ring is PRICELESS to me.

My Mémère was detail oriented woman. She kept meticulous records when she wanted to, and the documentation of this ring was no different. Not only was the ring passed to me, but the history behind the ring came along with it. Since part of the history is "verbal", I want to officially document here for future posterity.

When my parents passed the ring on to me (and the tears were finished), they passed along a portion of the story of the ring I had never heard before.

I was told that the ring (before it was Pépère's) belonged to his brother-in-law (who would have been my Great Uncle). Some time after my Pépère's brother passed away his sister approached Pépère and asked him if he had a "dollar bill" on him. He said that he did, and she proceeded to ask to see it. When my grandfather produced the dollar bill, his sister-in-law took the dollar bill from him, and replaced it with her husband's diamond ring. Without any previous knowledge of this, and as a complete surprise, she informed my Pépère that she just "sold" him her husband's ring. With the ring, she gave him a little card that read...

Mart -

I am selling you this ring knowing that Ernie would be happy that you are wearing his ring.

Love, Irene

Somewhere along the line (in Mémère's handwriting) the date "Saturday June 3rd, 1967" was written on the envelope, and stapled to the back of the envelope is a very small, very yellowed newspaper clipping, with a drawing of the ring, with

The next documentation I discovered was an appraisal, dated June 3rd, 1967. It was from J.B. Hudson's Jeweler.

(Again, the value is not relevant here. The ring is PRICELESS to me.)

We fast forward fifteen years, and we find the certified letter from Pépère, with instructions that Mémère is to keep the ring in safekeeping for me.

Family-HeirlomThe next set of documentation on the ring is another appraisal, dated June 28th, 1982 (one year after my grandfather's passing) from Martin's Jeweler. (I believe this is also the point in the ring's history (and the Jeweler used) to create the duplicate rings that were made for my uncles.)

This is followed with another certified letter, this time from Mémère. This letter details how my mother is to keep the ring (and allowing my father to wear it) until such time that they feel I am ready to take ownership of the ring.

And now, adding my personal mark on the history of the ring... The ring was passed to me, as per my grandfather's wishes on April 19th, 2009 - Thirty two years after my grandfather received it, and twenty nine years after documenting his wishes for me to have it.

I was "slightly" disappointed by one small factor. I'm not sure where I got this idea, but somewhere along the line, I got the impression that there was a personal letter for me with the ring from either or both my grandparents. I was looking forward to this more than owning the ring. There were letters in the packet, but they were "legal" in nature, and read like a will.

The ring's next step?

After a trip to an appraiser a professional cleaning & tune up, and (hopefully) quite a few years in my possession, its future will be determined at a later date....


  1. This has a high cool factor. Congratulations. Happy Birthday.

    love lisa

  2. Very moving post. Happy 40th Birthday as well! You and Dad Stuff are very close in age!

    Dad Stuff Wife

  3. Great story and an even better keepsake. Man, that stone's huge!

    You got a kind of "Godfather" thing going on there. You know, you could really turn this into something grand. Maybe...embellish the story a bit. Get a couple of your buds to go into a "secret society" kind of thing. In a couple of generations when everyone has forgotten how the secret society came about (and all they'll have is "the ring") you could OWN Minnesota!

  4. Wonderful story and family history to pass down. One of the five or perhaps a lucky grandchild will have the future priviledge of keeping the story and adding their own chapter to it.

  5. Happy 40th!

    It's beautiful. You are a lucky man.

  6. What a treasure. I hope that you are planning to add a personal letter and/or written personal history (publication of your blog, perhaps?) when you pass it along. You would perpetuate a family legacy. Congratulations. I loved that story!


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