Florida widow recovers wedding ring lost during Hurricane Idalia

The hurricane brought with it several feet of storm surge, as seen by a dark waterline reaching the white windowsill of Lilley’s pistachio-green home.

HORSESHOE BEACH, Fla.Hurricane Idalia may have flooded the home of Eileen Lilley, but it did not dampen her spirits Friday as she worked to rebuild and recover with the help of her community.

Idalia struck her town of Horseshoe Beach in Florida’s Big Bend on Wednesday morning. The hurricane brought with it several feet of storm surge, as seen by a dark waterline reaching the white windowsill of Lilley’s pistachio-green home.

She had evacuated leading up to the storm, scrambling to save what she could. She grabbed her children’s baby photos, some of her artwork and a few clothes, but in her hurry to escape the oncoming hurricane, she forgot to grab her wedding rings from her husband, Jim.

"He passed away a year and a half ago from Alzheimer's," Lilley told FOX Weather multimedia journalist Katie Byrne. She added that Jim was a Navy veteran. "I took care of him until I could no longer take care of him."


She only realized that she left the rings behind once she arrived at a motel to escape Idalia. When the storm made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane, with powerful winds and storm surge destroying houses up and down Florida’s Gulf coastline, Lilley feared the rings were lost to the storm.

Once Idalia passed, Lilley returned to her neighborhood to assess the aftermath.

"I just can't believe the devastation," she said. "I was on streets where I have friends yesterday, and I'm looking around, and all of a sudden, I had to stop on the street because I didn't know what street I was on. There is nothing recognizable."

Lilley returned home to find her belongings soaked from being under several feet of floodwater. Miraculously, however, her house remained intact.

"There was a wall around it from the Lord. He saved it for me," she said. She noted that as her home was unlivable, she was able to stay with her church family.

She also said that she received help from an assistant to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who visited Lilley’s church to see how he and his team could help. After hearing Lilley’s story, the assistant coordinated having a trailer be brought to Lilley’s property, so she could have a place to stay near her home.


Lilley also told the assistant about the rings from Jim, and how they were left behind during the storm. He asked her to describe where the rings were and then went into her home to find the jewelry box that contained them.

"And he got it for me," Lilley said as she struggled to fight back tears. "And the rings are still there."

Additionally, an American flag that was folded during Jim’s funeral service was also located.

As Lilley plans her next steps for recovering her home, she will stay in the trailer with her cat and dog. While the future may seem uncertain, Lilley takes comfort in the support of her community and the items and memories she holds from Jim.

"I am totally amazed and totally blessed," she said.