Unfortunate flush sparks stinky search

Lost jewelry: Couple grateful for septic company owner’s lengthy and determined treasure hunt.

Gratitude: Jacob Starnyski gives the ring to Donna and Doug Howard, Dani Jacobsen’s parents.

Gratitude: Jacob Starnyski gives the ring to Donna and Doug Howard, Dani Jacobsen’s parents.

When Dani and David Jacobsen are asked for parenting advice, they don’t hesitate.

“Don’t leave your jewelry by the toilet.”

Perhaps not the most common parenting tip, but one they wish they’d heard.

The Jacobsens are the parents of Cohen, 5, and Grady, 2. When Cohen was two, Dani was getting ready to have a bath with him so she took off her jewelry – a pair of diamond earrings, her wedding band, her engagement ring and a pendant necklace. This was 2013.

She thinks her husband  put them on the tub surround for her. When she couldn’t find them a while later, David thought perhaps he’d put them somewhere else.

“We were scouring the house – we just looked everywhere,” says Dani.

Cohen soon came to mind.

“He was going through a flushing stage. He was quite enamoured with the toilet. A couple of days before he had flushed an entire apple. He was flushing stuff right, left and centre.”

They asked him if he’d seen Mommy’s pretties.

“He took us to the toilet and told us he flushed them,” Dani recounts.

They thought he was joking, but soon realized they were facing the truth. And so began the great jewelry hunt. They started by taking out the toilet.

“I think we ended up breaking the toilet to see if it had got stuck,” says Dani.

Then David, an underground pipe layer by trade, headed under the house.

“He had to go on his back. He spent four or five hours under the house, taking one pipe out at a time, looking with a flashlight and having to glue it back together.”

Then he began digging up the pipe in the lawn, “over days and days and days.”

Next they called out Reliable Septic Services and co-owner Jacob Starnyski came out with his truck. He put a screen on the hose, while “my husband got totally geared up and got in the septic tank. It was waist deep.”

Dani says “it took a really long time.”

Still nothing.

Starnyski also looked when he was dumping the truck. Still no luck.

The couple assumed they wouldn’t see it again. They would be moving to Squamish soon and would be selling their home.

The loss was tough to take. Not only was the jewelry expensive, it had sentimental value.

“The thing that meant the most was the diamond pendant – it was a gift from my husband. Right after we got married we had a really bad miscarriage and he bought that for me,” Dani says, explaining it is a journey pendant.

“There are six little diamonds going down from biggest to smallest – it signifies the journey of life. It just gutted me, thinking about losing that… I was horrified that was gone.”

The wedding band and engagement ring were also important.

Recently, the couple got an offer on their Salmon Valley house. Part of the preparation for selling was to re-pump the septic tank. They called Reliable Septic. As it turned out, Starnyski responded and went out to do the job on Monday, Feb. 22.

“I knew the story, so in the back of my mind I thought, I bet that ring’s still in there,” Starnyski told the Observer, explaining it probably got stuck in the line but finally got pushed into the tank. He started on the opposite end of the tank, working slowly, and, sure enough, he saw something shiny. It was the ring entangled in the pendant.

When he spoke to Dani on the phone, she was beside herself.

“She was so happy and ecstatic,” he smiles.

Starnyski is pretty happy himself.

He has lots of stories he tells customers – a tent pole he found, cell phones, false teeth – “but that’s my main one,” he says of the jewelry. “Now I can finish it off. It’s a happy ending now.”

Dani recalls talking to Starnyski on the phone.

“I had tears in my eyes… I kept thanking him over and over again.”

She says he was so sweet, had the jewelry “all buffed up and beautiful,” and placed in a little Tiffany’s box. “He was so amazing and so kind.”

Dani’s parents, Donna and Doug Howard, agree.

“Jake’s pride in this is what is so amazing…You don’t find this every day.”


Salmon Arm Observer