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A Valentine from Pappy

  • Right: Jane Sunday, Lewistown Valley, talks about the hard life of her grandparents, Marvin and Louise Keefer. Marvin was a former coal miner and railroad laborer who worked long hours to buy his wife a $500 diamond ring.
    Right: Jane Sunday, Lewistown Valley, talks about the hard life of her grandparents, Marvin and Louise Keefer. Marvin was a former coal miner and railroad laborer who worked long hours to buy his wife a $500 diamond ring.
Published February 12. 2010 05:00PM

A Lewistown Valley woman wants people to avoid being penny wise and pound foolish.

Jane Sunday, 47, says it's a lesson she learned when dealing with home finances.

"We were looking for extra help to pay the bills," said Sunday. Sunday's home is heated with an electric heating system. The electric bill has been high due to the recent cold snap.

Sunday and her mother, Carol Sterner, figured that an old diamond ring from Sunday's grandmother might help.

"Mom wouldn't want you to struggle," said Sterner to her daughter. "It's time for you to sell the ring."

Sterner and Sunday both recognized the ring as a family keepsake but felt that the time had come to part with it.

The ring was given to Sunday's grandmother, Louise Keefer, by Sunday's grandfather, Marvin.

It wasn't an engagement ring. It wasn't a wedding ring. The family believes it was simply a gift early in their marriage, perhaps an anniversary present. Marvin and Louise are long gone and nobody quite remembers all of the details.

"We knew that he spent about $500 for it, and that was a lot of money back then," said Sunday, who remembers her "Pappy" as a quiet, laid back person.

"Nothing ever bothered him."

Pappy Marvin Keefer lived in the Jalappa section of Pottsville and was from a different era. Born in 1913, he entered the working world very early in life. Like many folks back then, he worked long hours for minimal wages.

"He was a coal miner from about the eighth grade and then went to work in St. Clair at the Roundhouse. There, he worked in welding and metalcrafts, securing rivets to the train cars."

Sunday said the work was extremely hard.

"He was always on his knees. So when he walked, he walked like he'd just gotten off a horse."

Keefer had saved his money a little bit at a time, and eventually purchased the fancy diamond ring for his beloved wife Louise.

The two passed away and the ring eventually was inherited by Sterner in 1986. Sterner wore it briefly and then decided to put it away for safekeeping.

In 2002, Sterner gave the diamond ring to Sunday after Sunday had given a ring she owned, her engagement ring, to her stepson so that he could ask for his girlfriend's hand in marriage.

Sterner presented the old diamond ring to Sunday knowing times were difficult.

That's when Sunday and Sterner agreed that it was time to sell the diamond ring in order to raise money to pay bills. The two were hoping to receive perhaps $2,000 to $3,000 for it, said Sunday, who works as manager of Tamaqua Subway.

One day after work, Sunday took the ring to Murphy Jewelers, Pottsville, when the operation was hosting a jewelry buying promotion.

There, jewelers examined the piece and gave Sunday the news.

"We can't take this from you," they said.

For a moment, Sunday had a feeling of uncertainty. Was this ring a fake?

"I thought...maybe the ring wasn't real."

Instead, just the opposite. The ring is very special - worth upwards of $11,000 or even more.

"I was speechless," said Sunday.

Patrick Murphy and associates explained to Sunday that the antique ring was made of platinum with close to one carat of the second highest grade of white diamonds known. The largest diamond appears to be square, but it's actually as close to round as possible. It is held in place by four prongs, compared to the six prongs of today's settings.

"This is a family heirloom. Cherish it," said Murphy to a stunned Sunday.

Sunday took Murphy's advice. She stored the ring in a safe-deposit box and is grateful to the honesty of the businessman. She realizes she could have made a bad mistake.

"I would've taken $2,000 or $3,000 and walked away."

Now that she has learned the real value of the antique ring, she has placed it inside a lockbox kept at an undisclosed location.

But for Jane Sunday, the ring's true value is in how it reawakened a sense of family relationships. It's impossible to place a price tag on feelings and emotions shared by family.

She intends to pass the jewel to her granddaughter, Chloe, 3.

The incident has given Sunday and her family renewed interest in exploring their family tree and a deeper appreciation for hardworking ancestors. She's continuing to make discoveries.

"We even found out that we have Welsh heritage. We had thought we were only German."

She also has gained a deeper sense of appreciation for the heirloom ring and the emotions attached to it.

"It's all I have left of my grandmother and grandfather. It's their heritage."

Sunday continues to work hard to pay down the high electric bill. She also recognizes that others might be facing the same issue. With PPL rates jumping this year - along with higher taxes in some local municipalities - Sunday feels that more people might find themselves looking for ways to generate funds in 2010.

She offers this advice: "Be careful about cashing in your family jewelry."

You might just be making a mistake.

You don't want to be caught penny wise and pound foolish.

On Valentine's Day, Sunday's thoughts will be about her loving family and her departed grandparents. And even though the temperatures continue to be cold, she'll have warm thoughts about her hard working Pappy and the special ring he left behind.

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