BROWNVILLE, Maine — Twelve years ago, Harry Ade was swimming in the calm, clear, sandy cove that’s home to his family camp on Schoodic Lake. His friends sometimes call him “the frog” because you can always find him in the water.
When he got out of the lake, he realized something was missing — his wedding band, the one with three diamonds and the date 6/17/72 inscribed on the inside. The one his wife, Jean, slipped onto his finger the day he married her.
Ade, 68, was heartbroken. He called on friends and family to help him sweep and scrounge the bottom of the cove for the ring to no avail. He even had someone with diving gear come in to search.
For months, years afterward, he told friends swimming at his camp — often by the dozens — to keep an eye out for it. When friends or relatives with kids came over, he offered them $100 if they could find it.
Eventually, he and his wife got a new set of wedding rings for an anniversary and moved on.
“I had given up and was depressed about it,” Ade said. “It’s hard losing something like that.”
About nine years ago, the Ades started living in Florida during winter, returning to the camp they love on Schoodic Lake for the spring and summer. Harry still swam every summer, keeping an eye out for the ring.
The past year has been hard on the couple, who met while working for a book publisher in Clifton, N.J., in 1965. They didn’t make it up to Maine this year, Harry Ade said during a recent telephone interview from Florida.
Jean, 67, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2012. She fought and underwent treatment. Two weeks ago, doctors told her she no longer shows signs of cancer, she said.
Harry found a lump in his throat early this summer. In June, he was diagnosed with tonsil cancer. He never smoked, but spent years working around people who did. He’s continuing to fight his own cancer, but the treatment has caused complications with his diabetes, and he recently had to have several toes amputated. The cancer treatment is slowing the healing process, but he has his last chemotherapy treatment on Monday and radiation starts three weeks later. The lump is noticeably smaller, he said.
The Ades are well-known in the Brownville area. His father, Harry “Red” Ade, ran a hunting and fishing lodge in the area. Red became close friends with longtime Bangor Daily News outdoors columnist Ralph “Bud” Leavitt, Jr. and Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams, who tagged along with Leavitt on many fishing expeditions. Red died in an accident in 1962 and the hunting camp closed. Leavitt died in 1994.
Harry Ade takes after his father in that he’s a born storyteller with a talent for talking in tangents — but interesting ones.
Harry Ade and other family members went on to own several hotels in the Millinocket area, including the Pamola Motor Lodge and Heritage Inn, as well as the former Phoenix Inn in downtown Bangor. Ade was born in New Jersey, but moved to Brownville with his wife in 1978.
Harry Ade is a big man, standing 6 feet 3 inches tall, and before his diagnosis weighed nearly 300 pounds. Today, he weighs less than 220 pounds, he said.
This summer was the the first since the family bought the camp on Schoodic Lake in 1984 that he and Jean haven’t been able to enjoy a summer there. Their health problems prevented them from making the trip.
But two friends from the lake recently sent them a gift that lifted their spirits.
Joe and Paula Goudreau, both 49, have been friends with the Ades for about a decade. Both families have camps on Schoodic Lake. The Goudreaus own The Country Villa Retirement Inn on Kenduskeag Avenue in Bangor.
Harry and Jean Ade had never told the Goudreaus about the lost ring, because they didn’t know the couple at the time it was lost.
This year, during the second week of July, Paula was spending time with friends on the lake. They took the pontoon boat out and anchored it in the cove, and Paula waded in the water. She saw something at the bottom of the cove, about 6 feet from the dock, shimmer. She picked up the object, a gold ring with the numbers 6/17/72 inscribed on the inside.
The ring looked good as new, Paula said, and didn’t need so much as a cleaning. All three diamonds were still intact after a dozen years at the bottom of the cove. She still didn’t know who it belonged to, and asked Harry’s brother Rich Ade, who also spends a lot of time at the camp, if he knew who it might belong to.
Rich said the ring was Harry’s, and he’d been agonizing over it for 12 years.
Rich Ade and the Goudreaus began hatching a plan for how to return the ring to Harry and Jean.
“We wanted to do something very, very special,” Paula Goudreau said in an Saturday interview at Country Villa. “We knew how special that ring was to Harry, we know the close relationship he has with his wife. Even though he’s a big guy, he’s a sentimental guy in many ways.”
They held onto the ring through the summer and early fall, until they realized that Harry wasn’t going to make it back to Maine so they could find a way to give it to him in person.
Instead, they got a small cedar box and filled it with sand from the Ades’ cove. In the box, they hid the ring and sent it to Jean and Harry in Florida. The couple received the package early last week.
At first, Jean and Harry thought their friends had just sent them a box of sand as a memento from home. Even that meant a lot to them, they said. Then they were told to look closer.
After finding the ring, Harry Ade called Paula Goudreau and left a voicemail.
“And the Lord said, ‘Let there be Paula,’” Ade said in the message. “Let there be Paula on this earth to find special things. Boy, did you find a special thing to me and Jean’s heart. Oh, my God, Paula, we have tears in our eyes.”
Ade went on to thank the Goudreaus and updated them on his health.
“I’m battling and I’m going to beat this. I’m going to bite it right on its ass and spit it out, Paula.
“Well, this is hope,” Ade said in the message, referring to the long lost ring.
In celebration, Harry and Jean slipped their original wedding rings onto each other’s fingers.