December 09, 2014 06:30 AM

Joyce Wharton’s parents, Hugh and Hazel Armstrong, went missing while flying their four-seat plane from Portland to Seattle in 1959. It took more than 10 years for anyone to locate the wreckage from their aircraft.

“At the time, they didn’t really find anything – they found my dad’s wallet and a few little buttons,” Wharton told Washington Fox affiliate Q13.

But in 1997, one man found considerably more than a few buttons. Logger Nick Buchanan discovered a ring in the roots of a cedar tree while hiking in the area. He knew the history of the site and realized the ring must have belonged to the couple who died in the 1959 crash.

“I never once thought it belonged to me,” Buchanan, who kept the ring safe for nearly 20 years, told Q13. “I just was hoping that there was a daughter or a family member that I could turn it over to.”

Aided by Ancestry.com, Buchanan’s nephew did some research and eventually tracked down Wharton, calling her the morning of Nov. 30.

“He says, ‘I’ve been looking for you,’ ” Wharton recalled. “Then he said, ‘Joyce, I found your mother’s wedding ring and I want to give it back to you.’ ”

Buchanan mailed the ring to Wharton, who told the New Jersey ABC affiliate, “The last time I saw this ring, my mother was wearing it 55 years ago.”

She calls the return of the five-stone band “my Christmas miracle.”

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