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Widow’s lost wedding rings miraculously discovered by Sussex landfill workers

SUSSEX COUNTY, Va. -- Jonnie Ashby was just a teenager when she met the man she would love for the rest of her life.

"It was 1956 when I met him on the 4th of July," Ashby recalled with a smile.

Bill Ashby shyly asked his future wife on a date with a simple card that read "I'd like to make a date with you."

The two had been sunbathing with friends at Moore's Lake, a once popular swimming hole in Chester, when they met and almost instantly fell for each other.

"We never dated anyone else after that," Ashby laughed.

Two years later, Bill and Jonnie got married in Richmond and built a home and life together in Stony Creek, Virginia.

They had a son and daughter, but always maintained a strong union as husband and wife, which included sentimental notes that she would leave in his lunchbox.

Jonnie and Bill Ashby

"Whenever he wrote me a note, he'd draw a hand on there like this," Ashby recalled. "It means never ending love. My husband and I did this to each other all the time."

It's the reason Ashby's wedding rings symbolized more than the vows the two took together back in 1958, and why almost losing them was so painful.

"On Tuesday morning, I realized I had thrown my rings away," Ashby recalled.

On June 26, Ashby said she was heading to the store, when she accidentally grabbed her wedding rings that were wrapped in a paper towel by the sink, and threw them in the trash.

Wedding rings

She had been doing the dishes earlier in the day, when her hands became swollen and she decided to place her rings by the sink.

Frantic and desperate to find the rings, Ashby and her granddaughter sifted through mounds of trash in a nearby dumpster, but were unable to reach the bottom because of construction materials that was placed on top.

They also contacted the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority for assistance.

By Wednesday, the dumpster had made it to the Sussex County Landfill and Recycling Center, but was isolated from other dumpsters to help employees locate the rings.

Jonnie Ashby

After the landfill closed on Wednesday, employees Matt Venable and Jason Williams helped search through numerous trash bags. Luckily Ashby had placed the rings in a bright yellow Dollar General bag, which made it slightly easier to locate.

"At about four o'clock he [Venable] called," Ashby said. "I yelled, 'What, are you kidding me!'  And he said 'I'm on the way with your rings.'"

Ashby says she hugged Venable and wrote thank you notes to every employee who helped search the landfill for her rings.

While she says the rings are merely possessions, Ashby believes they're also symbols of her family and the love she and her husband shared for 56 years.

Bill Ashby died on December 23, 2013.

Jonnie and Bill Ashby

"I got on my knees and said thank you to God for giving them the eyesight to find these rings," Ashby said.

After her prayer, she says she looked at a picture of her husband by her bedside, to say goodnight.

"I said you sent your guardian angel down here today, I know you did."