Finding the owners of the Vail wedding ring

Sep. 15, 2014

When David Brenner dropped his wedding ring on a ski day at Vail in the winter of 2009, he thought there might be a chance that Vail summer workers would find it when the snow melted. After the summer passed and the ring was still missing, he and wife Sue gave up hope of ever seeing it again. David went and bought himself a new band and, in a gesture speaks to how they’ve stayed happily married for 3 decades, had Sue pick out a new one as well.

Fast forward to a quiet summer day a few years later, Vail Lift Mechanic Ryan Portz was doing the annual summer inspection along Sourdough Express Lift (#14). While Sourdough is busy carrying skiers and riders to lunch at Two Elk and to Vail’s Back Bowls in winter, it’s a far flung spot in summer that sees more wildlife than people.

As Ryan walked the lift line, a glimmer in the dirt caught his eye. He knelt down and picked up a simple gold ban with the inscription “All my love, Sue. 6/20/82.”

“It was kind of overwhelming when I found the ring to, like, try and find the owner,” said Portz, “What do I do? Put it in the Classifieds?”

He brought the ring home that night and showed it to his wife and Vail Lift Dispatcher, Katie Portz. “The first thought was maybe we can find these people,” she said. She took some pictures of the ring and posted them to her Facebook page, asking friends for advice on how to find the ring’s owner. After a friend suggested she ask Vail’s marketing department to post it to their social media sites, she sent the photos along. Vail posted the images to their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ with the message “We found a wedding ring under Sourdough Express Lift (#14). Inscription: ‘All my love, Sue.’ Help us find the owner!”

No one was anticipating the groundswell of support that followed. Over a million people viewed, liked, shared and commented on the posts. The story was picked up by media across the US who jumped in to get the word out.

“Find Sue!” wrote Twitter users as they shared the story, “Not all found wedding rings are wanted anymore…” wrote a commenter on Facebook. As the days passed and the owner hadn’t been found, theories about his identity flourished. Many people surmised he and Sue were now divorced, others laughed that he’d purposefully chucked the ring to flirt with some cute ski bunny on the lift.

Meanwhile, Vail and Colorado news stations were receiving multiple messages a day from people who thought the ring might be theirs. In a Cinderalla’s-slipper move, Vail had kept the date on the ring’s inscription a secret so that they would know when the true owner came forward.

The fervor around the ring might have been consuming Vail’s social world, but David hadn’t heard a peep. A loan officer in Colorado’s Front Range, David might never have heard the story about a ring being found on Vail Mountain if it hadn’t been for a chance encounter with a client. Here’s how 7News related the story:

7NEWS viewer Heather Brown said she saw the story on our 7NEWS app and sent it to her friend Greg Dorce saying, “You’re the only person I know that is married to a Sue.”

Greg responded, “My ring is a ten dollar ring purchased in Guatemala. Thanks for the thought!”

However, Greg remembered the text days later when his mortgage broker, David Brenner, mentioned his wife, Sue.

Greg asked David if he ever lost a wedding ring.

David’s answer? “Yes, I did.”

The weekend of September 6th, David and Sue returned to Vail to meet Ryan and Katie Portz and their 17-month-old son, Mason. And collect the ring, of course.

“It’s awesome to finally be able to meet Katie and Ryan,” said Sue, “it’s wonderful to be able to thank them in person because so many people have asked us how we feel, but if it weren’t for them, this wouldn’t be a story.”