This story, Diane Silfen says, is like one of those amazing things that always happen to random strangers.
But — thanks to a random stranger — it happened to her.
Diane’s Westport roots are long and deep. Her mother, Elise Barnes, graduated from Staples High School in 1936. As Diane Haehl, she followed in 1965. So did her 2 siblings: David in 1969, and Janet 3 years after that.
Diane runs the Haehl Insurance Agency — the longtime family business — here. But she’s riding out the COVID-19 crisis at her Key West condo.
(It’s tough even there. With the beaches closed and the tourists gone, it’s like a ghost town.)
On Wednesday morning, Diane’s phone rang. The call was from Illinois. Suspecting a telemarketer, she almost did not answer.
For some reason though, she did.
The caller said, “I’m looking for Diane Silfen.”
“I’m Diane,” she replied.
He asked if Illinois or Colorado meant anything to her. No, she said.
The man said he and his wife once lived in Illinois; then they moved west. With time on their hands while self-isolating, they’d been going through storage boxes.
At the bottom of one was a Staples class ring, from 1969. It bore the initials “DWH.”
“That’s my brother!” Diane said.
“I know,” the man replied.
“We know he’s deceased. We want you to have it.”
As Diane listened in astonishment, the man — she was too stunned to ask his name – described what happened after finding the ring.
He and his wife went online. They found Staples High School in Westport; tracked down the list of ’69 grads, and saw the name David William Haehl.
Researching further, they learned that he died 12 years ago. The obituary included his sister’s name. The couple plowed ahead, and found Janet.
How the ring ended up in the bottom of their box is a mystery. They asked Janet if David traveled a lot.
“He went everywhere — but only for scuba diving,” she said. That ruled out Illinois and Colorado.
The man said he’d sanitize the ring, put it in a box, and send it to Florida. Diane will give it — proudly, lovingly, amazingly — to her son Seth.
That is indeed the kind of story that usually happens to other people. But David seems to have led that kind of happy-coincidence life.
Diane noted that when he was in Westport, David never missed a Staples football game.
When he died, the family held a memorial service at Compo Beach. The high school band was there, practicing loudly.
Someone suggested asking them to stop for a while.
“Of course not!” Diane replied. “It’s like they were playing there for him.”