Posted: 8:59 p.m. Friday, May 16, 2014

94-year-old woman hopes for return of stolen wedding rings

Betty Leary at her wedding
Betty Leary at her wedding

By Robert Handa

SAN JOSE, Calif. —

A 94-year-old South Bay woman is hopeful that a set of rings with priceless sentimental value might still be returned to her after the jewelry was stolen from a rental car Thursday night in an unlikely and cruel twist of fate.

San Jose resident Betty Leary is trying to recover some stolen mementos rich in personal and family history.

She will have to depend on the kindness of strangers to recover her engagement ring, wedding band, her mother's wedding ring as well as a children's ring set with seven birthstones.

Betty told KTVU the wedding jewelry she wore when she married IBM inventor Thomas Leary on May 18, 1940 was specially made.

"My father was a jeweler in Los Angeles" she told KTVU. "And he designed the engagement ring and wedding band, then supervised the making of them."

The theft was the result of unusual circumstances.

Betty's son David Leary is visiting from Virginia to attend the family anniversary celebration this weekend.

He was holding on to the jewelry while his mother had a brief hospital stay.

The rings were in Betty's wallet tucked away in a laptop case he used as a briefcase.

But David said his rented SUV was broken into Thursday night in the parking lot of the Flames Coffee Shop on Winchester Boulevard in San Jose.

Betty says she was more relieved David and his wife weren't hurt.

Betty said she's taking a philosophical attitude because of the many happy years with Thomas, who passed several years ago. Their large family has rallied around her.

"Losing the rings, of course, there's no way to explain how I feel about it," she said wiping away tears. "But I'm blessed in so many ways that I realize that they [the rings] are material things."

Still Betty is clinging to the slim possibility she might get the rings back.

She said she hopes the thieves or whoever ends up with the jewelry will see this report and realize the real value in the rings can't be measured in cash.

"I hope they don't think of it only in a monetary way," she said. "They were a gift of love and my family knows how much my husband and I loved each other and how much they [the rings] meant to me. I would hope they would look at it that way."

San Jose police said it has conducted a basic investigation but acknowledges it doesn't have the staff to do much follow up.

Betty's family members said they will not let the theft ruin the celebration.

Betty told KTVU she's trying looking at the bright side; she still has her husband's treasured ring on a chain around her neck.

She refused to take it off at the hospital.

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