NEW JERSEY (KABC) --Fifty-five years ago, Joyce Wharton lost her parents in a small plane crash. They disappeared in 1959 while flying to Washington state. For more than a decade, the family lived under a shroud of mystery.
"They went out to the airport and left, but they never arrived in Seattle," Wharton said. "So for many many years, we didn't know what had happened."
Her family agonized for nearly 15 years without answers until plane wreckage was discovered in a dense wooded area in Washington.
With closure and peace finally in hand, Wharton, who now lives in New Jersey, said she never imagined there could be more to come.
Then, on Sunday, she got an unexpected phone call and received a wondrous gift from a stranger that brought back memories more than a half-century in the past.
"He said, 'Joyce, I have your mother's ring, and I've been looking for you all these years and I want you to have this,'" Wharton said.
The voice on the phone was Nick Buchanan, a logger who had stumbled upon the wedding ring near the crash site.
With the help of his nephew, Buchanan used Ancestry.com to track Wharton down some 3,000 miles away.
"My mouth was open," she said. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing...it restores your faith in human nature, because there's so many bad things happening. And yet there are good people out there, kind people. People persevere."
Overwhelmed with joy, she calls the return of this precious family heirloom a miracle, one made possible by a perfect stranger she now considers a part of her family too.
"To see a ring that the last time I saw this ring, my mother was wearing it 55 years ago, that's my Christmas miracle," she said.