It's not that Nichole Dwire had lost all faith in humanity, but she couldn't help wondering what kind of world her three young sons were growing up in. People these days seemed so consumed by their cellphones, she thought, so preoccupied with themselves.
"I definitely had some doubts about human kindness," she said.
At least until that day about three weeks ago, when a stranger showed up on her doorstep in northwest Fort Worth. Dwire was at work, so her husband answered the door. The visitor was a man named Chris Streib, 44, who had retired from the Navy and now worked as a detention officer in the Tarrant County Jail.
Streib had done a bit of detective work to track Dwire down and wanted to return something he had found. He held Nichole Dwire's high school class ring, lost 15 years before.
"He didn't ask for anything. He didn't want anything," Dwire said recently. "Mr. Streib has renewed my faith in others."
The story began when Dwire was a senior at Western Hills High School, working at Ridgmar mall. She removed her new class ring to wash her hands in a restroom at Sears but forgot to put it back on. The ring was gone when she went to retrieve it.
Five years later, Streib was working part time at Sears, assigned to get rid of a box full of stuff lost there over the years. There were old purses and baby bottles. At the bottom of the box was the ring with a green stone and the name of Western Hills etched in the setting, next to the initials NDF and the year 1995.
As opposed to the purses and bottles, Streib knew that the ring held great value to someone. He wondered whether he could find the owner.
Streib called the high school and left a message but received no answer. He turned to the Internet but had no luck there, either. So he placed the ring in his safe-deposit box and forgot about it, until the recent day when he was digging around for something else and saw the ring again.
"I'm going to take another shot at it," Streib told his wife.
This time, the Internet was more help. Within minutes, he located a list of Western Hills seniors from 1995 and found a girl whose initials corresponded to those on the ring. He Googled the girl and found her and the name of Nichole Dwire's husband. The couple lived less than two miles from Streib's home near Eagle Mountain Lake.
"I thought, 'Wow, this is crazy,'" Streib said. "So we drove down the street. We knocked on the door. The husband was home so we gave it to him. He said, 'She just lost her wedding ring. You would make it perfect if you could find her wedding ring, too.'"
When Nichole Dwire's husband called her with the news, she notified a North Texas television station, because the world needed to know there were still people like Chris Streib who went to such lengths for a total stranger. Streib, however, groaned when a reporter called him.
"I didn't want it to go like this," he said. "I wasn't trying to make it into a big story or anything."
But that's what made it a big story.
Streib's prisoners at the jail saw the story about him on television and were moved.
"You did a good thing, officer Streib," they said. "You did a real good thing."
A few days ago, Streib and Nichole Dwire finally met in person, beneath the towering Christmas tree on Main Street in downtown Fort Worth. They embraced, and Dwire thanked him again. She held out the now-famous ring that adorned a finger on her right hand.
"It still fits," she said. "It's amazing, but it still fits."
Tim Madigan, 817-390-7544