Kaiulani Mayo and her fiancé, Taran Tani, have been dating since they were eighth graders at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.
“We had a lot of the same friends, we had class together and we just started liking each other in eighth grade,” Mayo, 22, said by phone from Southern California, where she now lives.
Taran, 21, meanwhile, is attending college at Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa.
Though the couple have talked about marriage over the years, Mayo said she was caught off guard when Tani finally popped the question this summer as they traipsed down Hanalei Beach Park during a brief respite back home on Kauai.
“It was very out of nowhere,” Mayo recalled. “We had been talking about it for a while, but I didn’t know that he would do it that day. It was really sweet and intimate because it was just me and him — no one else was around.”
It was a memory that, she said, capsulated in the diamond engagement ring he presented to her that day. So when Mayo realized she was not wearing the ring during a drive to her south Orange County home two weeks ago, she quickly returned to the Dana Point organic juice bar where she works.
“I was angry, I was sad, and I know it’s horrible because it’s a material thing, but I just felt so unhappy,” Mayo said about the moment she realized it was missing. “Taran and I have been together for a long time, so this was a long time in the making — it was like a symbol of us taking the next step and I lost that.”
Before leaving work that day, Mayo said she took off her ring to wash dishes and had likely dropped it in one of three places: in the store’s parking lot, Dumpster, or kitchen.
“I was looking everywhere, and it was so haunting to go to work every day because I was so distracted,” Mayo said.
She reached out to co-workers and friends to help look for the lost ring. She even made posters that offered a reward for the ring’s return.
“Everyone was so nice about it, but we never, ever gave up hope,” Mayo said.
And Tani didn’t give up hope, either. He placed an ad in the lost and found section for Dana Point on Craigslist. Two weeks later, a call from Kauai appeared on Tani’s phone the day before their ninth anniversary while Mayo was visiting him in Iowa.
On the other end of that call was Kilauea resident Sally Blades, who grew up in Dana Point.
Blades was visiting her 98-year-old mother about two weeks ago when she walked into Mayo’s organic juice shop after a stroll with her mother.
The store was about to close for the day, but before Blades walked out of the door, she noticed something shiny on the floor and placed it in her wallet.
She forgot about it until a few days later while she was in the checkout line at Target, where she was shopping for her grandchildren.
“As I’m leaving the store, the girl behind the counter says, ‘Is this yours?’” Blades recalled. “I looked down and the ring had fallen out of my wallet and onto the counter, so I thanked her and put it back in my wallet again.”
Blades then brought the ring home and showed it to her daughter, who thought it was real.
“I thought it was just made out of cubic zirconia or something,” Blades said.
She brought it back to Kauai and got a second opinion before she began a search of her own for the ring’s owner. That’s when she found Tani’s ad on Craigslist.
“I couldn’t find anything and then, finally, this picture popped up of these two people holding their wedding ring up and posing like how you would for a picture,” Blades said. “I looked at it and thought, ‘This must be the ring,’ and then when I looked at the background, I said, ‘That looks like Hanalei.’”
When Blades sent a picture of the ring to Tani, Mayo said she couldn’t help but cry.
“When he (Tani) finally got off the phone with (Blades) and he told me the story, I literally didn’t know what to say,” Mayo recalled. “I cannot wrap my brain around it. I just cried and he just hugged me. He was just really relieved and said, ‘Never lose it again,’ and I just said, ‘Yes, I never want to go through this again.’”
Blades never considered keeping the ring.
“That would not be good karma,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve lost a lot of stuff in my life, and I know it’s always nice if you get it back — I lost my wallet but I didn’t get it back and I lost it once more and I did get it back. What you give back comes back around to you.”
Mayo said she is thankful for Blades’ act of kindness.
“We keep thinking the ring wants to keep being on the North Shore of Kauai,” Mayo said with a laugh. “I don’t believe in coincidences — don’t know why she got it and it’s on Kauai, but it all just happened for a reason and we’re super happy that she’s the one who found it because she ended up being a really great person and giving it back to us.”
Mayo said she and Tani will send Blades an invitation to their wedding planned for next summer on Kauai.