FAIRFIELD — Joe Pollock came away from a motorcycle accident earlier this month with only minor injuries, but he thought he lost a part of himself forever.

That was until Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff Justin Smith stepped in.

Pollock has worn a Marine Corps ring since completing boot camp in 1963. It was given to him by his father, who also served in the Marine Corps in World War II and was injured at Iwo Jima. The younger Pollock retired from the Marine Corps in 1994 after 32 years of service, wearing the ring through his entire career and into the present day.

That is, until his accident Aug. 6 on Highway 34 just west of Fairfield, where he lost the ring.

Pollock said he has no idea what happened to cause the crash.

“Fortunately, I didn’t break anything. As the therapist said, I angered a lot of bones in my body,” he said. “It’s scary. It could have been a lot worse, but it wasn’t. I’ll be OK.”

He’s experiencing stiffness and soreness as a result of landing on the back of his shoulders in the accident but said that after about six weeks of therapy, he should be back to normal.

“By the time we were on the scene, he was conscious and alert. He was checked for minor injuries but otherwise OK,” Smith said of Pollock.

But in the process, Pollock lost his heirloom ring.

“I just figured it was gone forever. I guess it just flew off my finger when I flung my arm. I didn’t even realize it was gone until I was in the hospital,” he said. “When all that happened and I lost it, I was devastated.”

“He was pretty upset when he lost it,” Smith said. “I went out and started looking for it as soon as I got his voicemail. He was pretty sure he’d never see that ring again.”

He said it was hearing the backstory of the ring and knowing what it meant to Pollock that made him want to look for it.

“It was something that passed down to him from his father,” Smith said. “It was something I could tell meant a lot to him.”

Smith said he searched the scene of the accident for about a half-hour before leaving to borrow a metal detector in an effort to cover ground more quickly. After he returned to the scene, a resident that lives nearby came out and offered to help. Smith said another 10-15 minutes passed before the ring was found.

“We were able to come across it. That individual was the one who was able to kick it up out of the grass, and luckily we were able to find it,” Smith said. “I was pretty happy we could find it for him.”

After finding the Marine ring, Smith called Pollock, of Davenport, to let him know he had the ring.

“When he called me and told me he had good news, I was just flabbergasted,” Pollock said. “I was absolutely flabbergasted that that young man took the time to go out there and find that ring. What a good thing to do. I can’t praise him enough. I’ve got the ring back and I’m happy, and I just can’t say enough about Deputy Smith.”

“He was still fairly sore after the accident, so it took him some time to come down from Davenport,” said Smith, who gave the man his personal number in order to arrange the exchange in the future. That meeting happened this week. Pollock drove to Fairfield Tuesday to meet with Smith to get the ring back.

“Being able to get that back to him has probably been the highlight of my career since becoming a deputy seven years ago,” Smith posted on his Facebook page Tuesday.

“I’m just happy that there are good people out there that are willing to help. Not everybody’s a bad guy. There’s a lot of kind-hearted people that will take their time to help just like Justin did,” Pollock said. “That means more to me than anything, and I just can’t praise him enough. To take it upon himself and his own time to look for it, I don’t know how to thank him.”

And now the ring is back in its rightful place.

“I don’t know how to describe what it means to me. It’s just a part of me,” said Pollock, who’s back to wearing the ring all the time. “It hasn’t been off since I’ve had it back. I’ve had it a lot of years.”

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at tgoldizen@ottumwacourier.com or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at tgoldizen@ottumwacourier.com or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.


Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

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