The Daily News aptly dubbed Gary Gaddist "The Lord of the Ring" after the New York City Parks Department worker searched through tons of garbage at the city landfill to rescue an artist's anniversary band that she accidentally deposited in a trash bin in Lower Manhattan.
The story began in Battery Park, where Danielle Hatherley Carroll was teaching an art class in an historic and picturesque part of the city near the Statue of Liberty. “I’m a painter who takes people on outdoor painting adventures around New York City,” Carroll told the The Daily News.
Carroll traveled with rags, slippery hand cleaner and a clear garbage bag to capture all the refuse accumulated by her and her students. When the long day of classes was over, Carroll dropped the clear bag in a nearby trashcan.
But the glorious Sunday afternoon turned into a frantic evening, when the Aussie native realized her anniversary band was missing. It was 3:30 a.m. and Carroll started to panic. She knew exactly how and where she lost the diamond band – a cherished ring that marked her 10th wedding anniversary.
“I didn’t want my husband to get upset with me, so I was going to sneak out and find a police officer to help me look,” she told The Daily News. “But he awoke and said, ‘You’re out of your mind. I’m coming along to help you.’ ”
They couple returned to Battery Park before dawn and found the container where she had dumped her clear trash bag. Unfortunately, the trash has already been picked up and was already at the city landfill on Randall's Island. Carroll and her husband were about to give up the search when they saw a parked Parks Department garbage truck.
They decided to leave a note on the window of the truck. The note began, "Hello, I believe my wedding ring is in this truck."
When Gaddist returned to work the next day, he saw the note and was inspired to try to help. He called the couple and vowed to do his best to retrieve the ring. By 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning, Gaddist was already at Randall's Island ready to do a little diamond mining.
His co-workers at the landfill told him it was going to be like "finding a needle in a haystack," but Gaddist forged ahead and, despite the thin odds, found the ring within one hour. Asked why he would volunteer for such an unpleasant task, he told the press, "It's a love thing."
“She sounded like a nice person, and I could tell she and her husband love each other,” he said. “I’m glad I could help.”
Carroll and Gaddist reconnected a few days later when the artist invited "The Lord of the Ring" to attend one of her outdoor painting classes, this time in Time's Square.
“I’m going to try to do something impressive,” he said as he began to paint a cityscape with brilliant shades of purple and pink. “I see trash every day,” he said. “Some of it can be art, I guess. But this is very different from what I know.”