published Friday, March 11th, 2011

Donated ring brings $3,000 for Salvation Army

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    This 0.72-carat diamond ring, donated to the Salavation Army, is on display at Maryville Jewelers and was sold Thursday to the highest bidder. Staff Photo by Mariann Martin/Chattanooga Times Free Press

DALTON, Ga.—When the diamond wedding ring donated to the Salvation Army before Christmas slid onto his wife’s finger and fit perfectly, Willie Pagan knew he had to place a bid.

“I knew there was no way I couldn’t bid for it,” Pagan said Thursday after finding out his $3,000 bid was enough to win the $6,000, 0.72-carat ring.

An anonymous couple donated the ring to a North Georgia Salvation Army bell ringer shortly before Christmas along with a note that read, “My husband and I are still deeply in love. We think you could make better use of this ring than we can.”

The Dalton Corps of the Salvation Army put the ring on display at Maryville Jewelers in Dalton and accepted bids for 30 days.

The bids were opened Thursday. Dulce Jacobo, with the Salvation Army, said the ring will be presented to Willie and Martha Pagan on Monday. The Salvation Army will use the $3,000 for general operating expenses, he said.

Pagan said he met his wife, Martha, who had been a nun for 22 years, in front of Kmart. After talking for 10 minutes, Pagan said he knew he had met the woman he wanted to marry.

“I knew I would not meet another one like that,” he said.

Pagan, who owns Willie’s Burger Shack in downtown Dalton, said he and Martha were stunned when they learned the ring was his.

“My wife, she still can’t believe,” Pagan said at the tiny drive-through he has owned for four years, speaking in quick snatches between taking orders from the drive-through and walk-up customers.

Pagan decided to try to get the ring after seeing a story about it in the newspaper. He wanted the diamond sparkler as a sixth anniversary gift for his wife. He looked at the ring first, liked it and then took his wife in to see it.

“She loved it,” Pagan said. “But we put in such a low bid. I never thought we would get it.”

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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