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NEW RICHMOND - It's not often that a plumber is party to a small miracle.
Their job is usually down and dirty, and success is often measured simply by newly restored water flow.
When Allen Lewerer, co-owner of Mr. Rooter of St. Croix County, was dispatched to a New Richmond, Wis. home Jan. 22 for a clog, he had no reason to believe the job would be any different from hundreds of other calls.
But in the plumbing business you learn to expect the unexpected, and the day's events would eventually lead to a feel-good story that has become a new chapter in plumbing lore.
Lewerer arrived at Carey and Charlotte Moe's home to fix a sewer pipe that was draining slowly. The plumber used a cable to dislodge the clog and flushed the line with water.
To make sure that the homeowner didn't have a broken pipe, Lewerer sent his camera down the pipe to have a close-up look at the line.
"I always send the video camera down to inspect the pipe," Lewerer said.
As Carey Moe watched over the plumber's shoulder, something shiny caught his eye. Lewerer suggested the object was a bottle cap or a small section of copper pipe. Carey thought differently.
"It couldn't be," the maintenance technician at Federal Foam in New Richmond exclaimed.
Sure enough, the object turned out to be Moe's wedding band, which had been missing for 12 years.
Moe's memory is a little fuzzy on the details, but he recalls doing the dishes more than a decade ago and taking off his ring.
When he was through, the trouble began.
"When I picked it up, I dropped it and it went down the drain along with the water," he said.
Moe tried to recover the ring by removing the sink trap, but to no avail.
"I assumed it was gone," he said.
But there it was again, illuminated by an inspection camera, sitting inside the Moe's sewer pipe some 35 feet from the house.
Lewerer sprung into action, vowing to recover the lost ring.
Moe said the extra effort wasn't necessary, but Lewerer's efforts wouldn't be derailed.
"What I really got a kick out of was Al," Moe said. "I have to admire him, he stuck with it."
Moe said the plumber tried several different tools to accomplish the ring rescue, heading back to his truck several times, when another idea hit him. Eventually he figured out the best way to retrieve it
"I was kind of chuckling to myself. He was like a little kid, trying to figure it out," Moe said. "It must have taken him an hour. I was glad I wasn't paying him by the hour."
Lewerer, with Moe's help, used the camera to guide a hook into the pipe and grab the ring.
Once the wedding band was in hand, Lewerer took a picture of Moe with the newly found ring as proof of the day's excitement.
"It's one of those fluky things," Lewerer said. "It made my day to see how happy Carey was. He had a big grin on his face and said, 'The wife won't believe it.'"
Lewerer said he was happy to play a small part in a story with a happy ending.
"It will be a good story to tell," he said.
Moe said he plans to take the ring to a jeweler to have it brightened up a bit.
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