David’s Ring

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 Silfen

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.”

David Haehl, in the 1969 Staples High School yearbook.

“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.

Seth Van Beever (right), his brother Baird, and their uncle David Haehl.

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.”

12 responses to “David’s Ring

  1. A typical Dan Woog story: it brought tears to my eyes AND a smile to my face. And it includes a timely tribute to the kindness of strangers. Keep up the good work!

  2. K.F. Spearen

    What a Wonderful story Dan .. Reading this bright back found memories of David … He was one of the Good Guys , who left us way too soon ..

  3. Kathryn Coster

    Truly a wonderful story…I met David in the 1970’s when we worked together at Maxi Taxi…we were an irreverent bunch that worked the night shift and knew how to blow off steam after the shift was over (Black Duck anyone?!) One of my favorite folks…remembering that huge lovable dog “Bear” as well.

  4. That is an amazing and touching story—and great detective work by the donors.

    I can relate on some level in that my dad was a diehard Ohio State football fan and, after he died decades ago, my mom gave me his college ring. He instilled his passion for Buckeyes football in me and, when I finally made it to the ‘Shoe in Columbus for my first game there many years after my dad’s death, the experience was even more special with my wearing his Ohio State ring.

    The family names sounded familiar so I googled them—and it turns out that you had written about the fact that the Haehl family owned the barge where the Black Duck is located. I am posting the link to the story because there were a couple of wonderful vintage pics/paintings.


  5. Virginia Jaffe

    Thank you Dan for your round-up it was great. Thanks to you, our volunteers have now stretched further than just GFS Moms. 5 are random strangers who read your post and whom we scooped into our sewing team. We are finding more and more ‘sewing angels’ who want to contribute at this time. Thanks again Virginia

    Westport Masks Marisa Zer and Virginia Jaffe

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. Isabelle Breen

    What a heart warming story. No doubt a shout out from heaven to his sister. David was my landlord on Dr. Gillette Circle when I first moved to Westport 30 yrs ago. Definitely one of the ‘Good Guys’ .

  7. Diane Silfen

    Thank you all for your heart warming comments about my brother David and even about his very large white dog Bear !

    • Isabelle Breen

      Didn’t David also have a giant yellow lab named Tosh?

      • Diane Silfen

        Yes he did then he also has 2 chocolate labs and they were his last dogs and I can’t remember there names

  8. Jacques Van Brunt Voris

    Reading along…..long time Westporter….mother was a Barnes, I recognize that name….checks the genealogy database……Bingo….. 5th cousins….yes, I am related to everyone

    • Diane Silfen

      Please I would love to have you tell me the line of relationship.. I didn’t think we had any long missing relatives. Could be fun. Thanks

  9. Dave Stalling

    What a great story! Thanks for posting.