Police buy back wedding ring man pawned for food

Police officers and civilian staff in Cornwall, Ont., passed the hat to buy back the wedding ring a man had pawned for food for his wife.

When Cornwall police arrived at a domestic disturbance call last weekend, they thought they would be called on to protect, but they ended up serving.

Officers determined an elderly woman, whom they declined to identify to protect her privacy, was suffering from dementia, and her husband was having trouble caring for her by himself.

There were no groceries in the house and the man explained he had started selling their possessions to make ends meet. Things had gotten so bad, he admitted to having pawned his wedding ring for food.

The two responding officers alerted the Alzheimer Society and the Community Care Access Centre, but felt they could do more. So they took up a collection at the station and bought the couple $150 worth of groceries.

The next day, the officers again went beyond the call of duty, and bought back the man’s pawned wedding ring (for $131) and returned it to him.

“They don’t want recognition,” said Cornwall Police Chief Dan Parkinson, who declined to name the nine officers and five civilian staff members involved. “They’re a humble group.”

“They felt this was nothing out of the ordinary,” Parkinson added. “We see these kinds of things more often than you would think.”

More and more people are falling through the cracks of the health-care system, said Parkinson, and the police are often the only service able to respond.


“The tragedy behind this story is the growth of dementia and the problems associated with it. It shouldn’t have been a police matter, but we’re evolving in our role as 24-hour first responders,” he said.

The story was made public by Cornwall Police Services Board chairman André Rivette, who reported it to city council on Monday. After the local Cornwall Seaway News reported on his speech, media outlets from around the world have been calling the Eastern Ontario city requesting interviews.

“They’ve graciously declined the requests,” Parkinson said. “The man involved would be humiliated if his name were to come out.”

While respecting their wishes, Rivette still believes it’s a story worth telling.

“It’s a heartwarming story in the middle of winter,” he said. “It’s a hell of a thing for those officers to do (and) they didn’t do it for any other reason than to help out.”

After informing city council of the officers’ generosity, everyone in the chamber rose to give a standing ovation, Rivette said. The Police Services Board has voted to write each participant a letter of commendation.

“The lay people who work for the police department and the officers pulled together to raise that money. It wasn’t a hard thing to do. They just contacted the people on that shift and everybody was more than happy to give,” he said.