PORTLAND, Ore. -- A wedding ring missing for almost 50 years turned up unexpectedly and is now back where it belongs.

Jan and Dean Anderson, who live in Gresham, have been married for more than 50 years. They still clearly remember how they met.

“We were young at a church youth gathering,” said Jan.

“I was 15, he was 17,” she continued.

Jan and Dean Anderson on their wedding day 

What started as young love, turned into marriage. But about five years in, Dean lost his wedding ring.

“I couldn't believe it. I lost it playing football in a guy's backyard,” Dean said.

His friend’s backyard was located in Aloha.

Everyone tried to find the ring. A metal detector was even used, but nothing turned up.

Anderson would go about 20 years without a band on his finger.

“We couldn't afford to do anything about it at the time so just didn't replace it,” said Dean.

Fast forward to 2017, 46 years after he lost his original wedding band, and this week the Andersons got a phone call they could hardly believe.

“She said, 'Did your husband lose a wedding ring at one time?'” recalled Jan.

The wedding ring

Jan said an Oregonian reporter was on the other end of the line.

“It sounded more and more believable because she said she was contacted by a fellow at the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation,” she said.

Jan said she was told that a worker had been digging up a sidewalk at Hazeldale Park in Aloha when a ring appeared in the dirt.

She said somehow the ring had traveled about a mile from their friend's backyard in Aloha, to the park.

“I don't know how it got there,” said Dean.

“You know, raccoons love shiny little objects,” Jan said.

The mystery still remains about how the ring got from point A to point B. But after the discovery, came the hard work to track down its owner.

Engravings on the inside of the ring were the only clues.

“The initials in it were J.B. to D.A. and there was a date in it,” said Jan.

That date: June 25, 1966 -- the day of their wedding.

“It's pretty amazing it's the right ring,” Dean said.

After a number of people did a lot of searching, the Andersons were finally reunited with their wedding ring.

“He put it on right away and it fit,” said Jan.

“It was meant to be. That's fate, right?” Dean added.

Samantha Swindler, the Oregonian reporter who helped track down the couple, says in her article that the ring was found thanks to old-fashioned research at the public library and newspaper archives.

The Andersons said they're touched that there are good people who cared enough to return their long lost ring.