Linda Hufstetler can still remember the day she met her late husband Bill more than 60 years ago.
"It all started at The Clock on Stone Avenue on September 18th of 1957," said Linda as she smiled, holding a photo of Bill.
He was carrying a stuffed tiger named Hershey that caught Linda's eye.
"That was the start,” said Linda. “We dated for 2 months and he asked me to marry him in November."
Bill was serving in the Air Force and was heading West for temporary duty. Linda says their first kiss felt like electricity running through her.
"He decided he was not going to take a chance on me waiting for him,” she described. “We had to get married before he went away."
Linda was just 19 and Bill 20 when they eloped January 1, 1958. Three days later, their families held a proper wedding for the couple.
"At the time, neither one of us had two nickels,” she said.
Bill gave Linda a gold band and promised to find her a suitable ring. He did while on duty in Sacramento and mailed them to Linda on her birthday.
"He began paying for them on layaway,” Linda explained. “For the next 6 months, he had $8 a week for pocket money."
In 1977, her husband got her a sapphire ring with 4 stones for Christmas. For more than 40 years, Linda rarely took off either ring. Bill died in 2011 after suffering a stroke the day after their anniversary.
The rings represent her once in a lifetime bond with Bill. Wednesday, she took those rings, a family ring and an onyx and diamond ring off, along with her earrings, while trying on clothes in a Belk dressing room at the Haywood Mall.
She left the room for just minutes. A mistake that is now causing the 79-year-old a lot of pain.
"The earrings were there, but my rings were gone,” Linda said as she held back tears.
She says the store manager sorted through footage, but had no indication of who may have taken them. She described the rings as irreplaceable and is offering a reward in hopes of having them returned.
"When I close my eyes,” said Hufstetler as she held back tears. “I see my rings laying on that stinking shelf and then I see nothing but my earrings laying on that stinking shelf. It is frustrating, to say the least."
She just wants it back and is even offering a reward to the person that returns it. She says you can return it to the store or the police department.
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