WILLIAMSBURG — John McElrath is no stranger to long-distance cycling. Back in his college years, he lived in California. He would ride from Santa Cruz to San Diego; a distance of over 400 miles that he pedalled with no problem.
The 75-year-old might not be attempting those types of distances anymore, but a couple of years ago, he dusted off his bike and began cycling again. It’s a habit that’s helped him lose over 80 pounds and his wedding ring.
John was at the doctor’s office for a checkup a day after cycling on the Virginia Capital Trail along the Chickahominy River. He looked down at his hand in the waiting room and noticed that he didn’t have his wedding ring on; something that he never takes off.
The last moment John remembers seeing his ring was when he was on the trail cycling.
“I started thinking about where I could have lost it, and truthfully I could’ve lost it anywhere,” he said. “I have nerve damage in both hands. So when I ride my bike with this nerve damage in both hands, it gets worst and I can’t feel anything.”
One of the things John does when riding his bike is taking his hands off the handlebars so that he could shake them.
“That gives it the illusion, if nothing else, that the hands are beginning to work again. Of course, I do this frequently when I ride,” John said.
The ring holds great sentimental value for John. He’s been married to his wife, Margaret, for almost 52 years.
An Over Half Century Long Marriage
The couple met while they were both attending Cal Poly Pomona. They were scheduled to meet with a professor around the same time and ended up crossing paths at the professor’s office. They wouldn’t start dating until the following year.
“The dean of men told me that I needed to take a year off and figure out what I was doing,” said John. “He was right, and so I worked a year, and I came back taking night courses. It turns out that Margaret was in one of those night courses with the same professor that we first met with.”
One Friday night in 1970, after class, Margaret and John went out for drinks and ended up spending Saturday, Sunday, and Monday together. The rest was history.
“It’s a long time, but it doesn’t seem so long,” said John. “We’re very fortunate. We love each other and respect each other.”
The ring came into the picture after John already proposed to Margaret. At the time of the proposal, the couple didn’t have either ring but knew that they wanted to marry each other.
“Most things I think through but I can’t say that I thought this through because it just sort of came out as we were talking,” said John. “I just said, ‘I really love you and I want to marry you,’ and, to my surprise, she said ‘yes.'”
“We liked each other’s company, and we still do.”
The couple has worked in the computer science industry together for over fifteen years and have been very dedicated to their work. For the first nineteen years of their marriage, they moved seventeen times.
“It made it tough. I did more traveling than Margaret did because I ended up being in the management of programs much sooner than she did. She stayed in the technology side much longer than I did,” said John. “More than anything else, we just liked each other. We liked each other’s company, and we still do.”
John describes the ring as, “Two-tone gold. The outside edges are a kind of a white gold, and the inside is more of a yellow gold. The ring was heavily carved around the circumference with a kind of a leaf motif. The bottom of the cutout was all made black. It was a very unusual ring. I’ve never seen one like it.”
When asked what the secret is to their over half century long marriage, John said, “I do think being friends as well as lovers is important. I also think that you have to respect and trust each other every day. You need to fail to hear the things said in anger, and, more than anything else, you need to wake up saying ‘I love you’ and go to bed saying ‘I love you’ and mean it.”
“We do this every day even if we are not together for some reason, either by phone, email, or text. When all that is said we simply believe we were meant to be, no question or uncertainty, we were simply meant to be together and we live our life that way,” said John.
John says that he is willing to pay a reward for the recovery of the ring. If anyone finds the ring they can contact John McElrath at his email: firstname.lastname@example.org.