Logger uncovers 55-year-old mystery, reunites NJ woman with family treasure

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WAYNE, New Jersey (PIX11) – A logger’s happenstance discovery in a patch of Washington forest reunited a New Jersey woman with a priceless belonging lost by her late parents decades earlier.

In 1959, Joyce Wharton’s parents, Hugh and Hazel Wharton, took off in a 4-seat plane on a trip over Washington state — it was the last time they would be seen alive.

Logger Nick Buchanan found the ring while on a hike.

Logger Nick Buchanan found the ring while on a hike — it belonged to Hugh and Hazel Wharton who died in a plane crash  in 1959.

“He was a very experienced pilot and they flew that morning out of Portland to Seattle and never arrived,” Wharton told Q13FOX.

The exact spot the plane went down — a few miles outside of Centralia — wouldn’t be discovered until a group of hunters stumbled across it 14 years later.

Wharton said the hunters found her father’s wallet and a few buttons — but that wasn’t all that lay in the underbrush.

Joyce Wharton said she couldn't believe anyone was able to find the ring after so many years.

Joyce Wharton said she couldn’t believe anyone was able to find the ring after so many years.

During a hike in 1997, logger Nick Buchanan happened upon the crash site and remembers, “It was a little small cedar tree and I’m digging in the roots and flipped that ring out . . . had the tree grown just a few more years, it would have been covered up forever.”

It was the gold, 5-stone wedding ring that Wharton’s mother was wearing when the plane went down.  With no idea whose ring it might be, Buchanan held onto it for twenty years — until he started digging for information on the Internet with the help of family members.

Woods

“Had the tree grown just a few more years, it would have been covered up forever,” said Nick Buchanan, the logger who found it while hiking.

 

“I never once thought it belonged to me,” Buchanan said.  “I just was hoping that there was a daughter or a family member that I could turn it over to.”

His nephew uncovered the story of the crash and found that the Wharton’s daughter was living in Wayne, New Jersey.  Buchanan contacted Joyce Wharton and sent the ring out across the country — after more than half a century it returned to the Wharton family.

“You just think it’s impossible to get a ring back after all those years,” Wharton said.

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