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A year ago, her engagement ring vanished at a hospital. She still cherishes the man who gave it to her

Faye and Tom Bauman on their wedding day — November 4, 1967. Courtesy Faye Bauman

Faye Bauman was wearing her diamond ring when she fell and broke her hip. It was June of last year, and she was 85. At North Florida Hospital in Gainesville, she took off several pieces of jewelry, including the ring, and gave them to a nurse.

After the surgery, recovering at a rehab center, she realized she’d left the hospital without her jewelry — including the diamond engagement ring from the love of her life.

She could still remember the look in his eyes when he gave her that ring. Eager and innocent. They’d met at a party, and by the end they were holding hands under the table. He saved up to buy her the ring. A half-carat diamond in white gold. One day he showed up at her office and dropped to one knee. He looked stunning in his Navy dress uniform. She said yes, slipping the ring onto her finger, sliding it around to make the diamond catch the light.

Fifty-six years later, in a newer band of yellow gold, that diamond vanished from the hospital. Faye Bauman wanted to know why.

For almost 12 months, she and her daughter tried to find answers. They spoke with at least four hospital officials. Bauman filed a police report, which classified the missing jewelry as a grand theft. But they got no satisfaction. The jewelry seemed to be gone forever. By May 2024, they say, no one had offered to make the situation right.

Finally, Bauman told news reporters about her plight. In a long message sent from her iPad, during which she apologized for any errors that might be caused by her macular degeneration, she wrote, “At the present time, the CEO is not returning my;our calls. I have done everything they have told me to do but at this point it seems I don’t exist.”

A CNN reporter made inquiries with the hospital and the police department and waited several days for answers. In the meantime, over the course of multiple phone interviews, Bauman told her story.

She said she didn’t expect to see her diamond ring again. But she realized this was a chance to talk about something more important: the man who gave her the ring.

“I want to tell you, I was not a princess when I met him,” she said. “Tom made me a princess.”

She has wonderful memories of their marriage. But the final years were not the same

Before he and Faye were married, Tom took care of his sick mother. This experience strengthened his habit of serving others. Day after day, throughout much of their marriage, he brought Faye breakfast in bed. He’d pick a flower from the yard and place it in a tiny Waterford vase that he set on her breakfast tray. He asked her how she wanted her banana sliced. He brought her English tea, along with toast and jam and a coddled egg. Faye was divorced with three young daughters when she met Tom, and Tom treated the girls like they were his own.

Tom and Faye were married for 47 years. She was a mental-health counselor and he worked in the Navy Supply Corps. After the Navy he got his contractor’s license. “Every house we ever lived in, he remodeled,” she said. He did plumbing and electrical work, adding a family room, installing French doors, taking on extra work so he could buy and install a new Jacuzzi for the woman he loved.

Tom and Faye Bauman in an undated photo. Courtesy Faye Bauman

They kept up their long romance from Florida to Rhode Island, from London to Istanbul and back to Florida. She admired his good looks and liked the way he smelled. They danced on the beach with their eyes closed.

Tom took care of Faye until he couldn’t anymore. In his fifties, something went wrong with his mind. First it was dementia, then Parkinson’s Disease. He painted a room the wrong color. He walked outside in his underwear. In the grocery store, he picked up a piece of gum from the floor and put it in his mouth.

Tom’s body began to fail him, starting with his feet. Now it was Faye’s turn to take care of Tom. She pulled him out of the hot tub when he couldn’t get out on his own. She placed him on a mat in the yard, where he could lie down and pull weeds. She got up early to clean the gutters so he couldn’t tell her that was his job.

It went on like that for more than 20 years. He was her husband, but the man she’d married was only a memory. He asked to move to a nursing home, and she let him go. Sometimes she woke in the middle of the night and drove to the nursing home and got into bed with him.

“I don’t want to die,” he told her.

‘Oh, he was so beautiful’

As Faye Bauman reminisced about her husband, the gears were turning in the case of the missing ring. The situation appeared to change in the days after a CNN reporter inquired about the jewelry. A Gainesville Police spokesman said the case had been assigned to a detective.

And a spokesperson from HCA Healthcare’s North Florida division released this statement:

“Compassionate care is the highest objective for the staff at HCA Florida North Florida Hospital. We looked into this with our contracted security provider who is responsible for securing patient’s belongings, and we have assisted the Gainesville Police Department with their investigation, which is ongoing. We regret the loss of this personal item and have committed to reimbursing this individual to make things right.”

This was an improvement, if not a full resolution. Faye Bauman still wants to know how the ring disappeared, and she still wants more answers about what hospital officials did in the year that followed.

As for the man who put the ring on her finger, she is sure of his final destination.

Faye and Tom Bauman on their wedding day 57 years ago. “We had a wonderful life,” she says. Courtesy Faye Bauman

Near the end he was on morphine, and he’d stopped talking, and they were together, and he was drifting away.

“Oh,” she said, remembering that moment, “he was so beautiful.”

She held his hand, and kissed him, and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. It felt as if angels were filling the room. She was praising God as she heard Tom take his last breath.

Nothing is forever, at least not here on earth. She wore that diamond ring for seven more years. And then, like Tom, it was gone.

“You know,” Faye said, “we had a wonderful life.”

Her voice was cracking as she thought of him. Imagining the old Tom, the one who knelt before her that day in 1967. She expected to see him again. Restored, and renewed. His arms open. Welcoming her home.

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