That old magic touch

Joe Lauzen, left, of Illinois shows off the wedding ring that John Dudley of Grand Junction recently found in Lake Michigan near South Haven. Lauzen had lost the ring while swimming with his children. Two days later, wielding a metal detector, Dudley was able to find the ring and return it to a surprised Lauzen and his wife, Jennifer.

SOUTH HAVEN — Lost your wedding ring? Don’t worry – a local magician has a habit of making lost jewels reappear.

John Dudley has found a lot of rings during the 20 years he has been metal detecting – some finds have even caught the attention of national news media outlets.

The trend continued this month when he came to the rescue of a distraught Illinois couple visiting South Haven.

“I know this is a long shot, but my husband’s wedding ring fell off in the lake two days ago,” Jennifer Hallgren Lauzen posted online. “There were a lot of waves that day, but he was not super deep. ... We realize this is like looking for a needle in a haystack, but if it ever washes onto the shore, we want to make sure someone could contact us.”

Dudley, of Grand Junction (who was out of the state at the time), heard about the couple’s plight via social media.

“My wife, Nicole, and I were in South Bend and I kept getting tagged on Facebook and messaged about someone who had posted about a lost ring,” remembers Dudley, who also happens to be president of West Michigan Metal Detector Club. “So, I called them and got a few details. I said the soonest I could get there was about an hour and a half because of where we were.”

Joe Lauzen had lost the ring while playing in Lake Michigan with his kids. He knew approximately the location where it had come off, but with the waves, the ring had apparently moved, according to his wife Jennifer. “He kept diving to feel the bottom of the lake where it fell off, for a few days. We even bought our own metal detector and found out the hard way we weren’t very good at it.” The detector, she explained, couldn’t be used in deeper water.

Armed with his high-tech metal detector and ear phones, Dudley braved the chest-high water where the ring had fallen off Lauzen’s finger and started searching.

“I turned on the machine and started into the water,” Dudley recalled. “Holy cow, was it cold! I found out later it was 65 degrees. I had searched about an hour and 15 minutes and kept finding large, long sharp pieces of metal. In the water, all metal sounds the same. I had taken about all of the cold water I could, and decided to do one more sweep and then come back when the water warmed up.”

It was during that final search that he hit pay dirt.

“On my last sweep, I hear another signal and dug it up. We use a long handled scoop with a sieve-like attachment that lets the sand fall through. I raised the scoop and saw his platinum ring inside. I slipped it on my pointer finger and yelled at him ‘Hey, look.’ His eyes got so big and he yelled, ‘No way!’

When the two got back, they were met by Lauzen’s surprised wife.

“When we got to the house, his wife saw us coming and came out to see if we had any luck,” said Dudley.

“The husband held up his hand and showed her. She yelled ‘Oh, my God, you found it.’ She gave me a huge hug and started getting teary-eyed.”

“What are the chances?” Jennifer said. “I thought, ‘who is this guy?’”

Just a few weeks before finding Lauzen’s wedding ring, Dudley, who is a professional magician, made another couple happy during a magic convention they all were attending in Colon, Mich., which bills itself as the Magic Capital of the World.

Another trick up his sleeve

Two years ago magician Mark Holstein and his wife were visiting Colon when he lost his wedding band in a friend’s yard.

“We tried to find it, and then again last year, but no luck,” Holstein said. “Recently, I saw on Facebook that my old friend and fellow Magic Get Together attendee John Dudley was an expert at metal detection. I asked him if he would be willing to take a crack at finding the ring. He enthusiastically agreed. Honestly, after two years, it was the proverbial needle in the haystack.”

Dudley met Mark’s wife, Sue, at the house and within 15 minutes, had recovered the ring. Being the comic magician that he is, Dudley had another trick up his sleeve.

The two didn’t tell Holstein that the ring had been found. During the comedy magic show held at Colon High School, Holstein, who was stage manager, was called onto the stage.

“At the very end of the show, fellow magician Stephen Barga did a routine involving a gumball machine,” Holstein recalled. “At the end of the routine, he dragged me out onto the stage and asked me to put a quarter in the machine. The little capsule came out containing my lost wedding band. So, in front of 800 people, I was reunited with my ring. Unbeknownst to me, John had been successful in finding the ring. That was real magic.”

Besides reuniting lost rings with their owners, Dudley has dug up quite a slew of interesting pieces of metal.

“My most unusual things might have been two badges from the Grand Army of the Republic (Civil War Veterans group), dated 1865,” said Dudley. “I found them at an old homesite that had been tore down.”

Dudley’s expertise at metal detecting has resulted in Kalamazoo Valley Community College asking him to teach a Metal Detecting 101 class.

“That’s kind of cool,” he said.