Dropped Your Wedding Ring Off the Boat? This Michigan Diver is the One to Call.
Grattan boasts a 100 percent success rate recovering lost items from the shallow, murky Lake St. Clair.
Robert Grattan, a 64-year-old diver living in Michigan, is no stranger to the sea—or to a metal detector.
Usually, when you drop something in the water, sand, murky waters and the passage of time slowly claim what once was yours. But not when you call Grattan: His recovery dive findings over the years have included cellphones, jewelry, prescription eyewear, coins and paper bills, old fishing motors, boat propellers, and over 300 pairs of sunglasses.
Other discoveries have been more unusual, like guns, bullet magazines, and practice bombs from World War I associated with nearby Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Many bombs have been restored, with some given to his grandsons.
“I have a 100 percent success rate for finding things for people, so I’ve got a very solid reputation,” he says. “People ask if it’s me and they tell me their story.”
In 2020, he “was needed every single day of the week.”
“All heck broke loose.” Thanks, Facebook.
His affinity for diving began decades ago, when the U.S. Air Force sent him to Okinawa for more than four years, between 1975 and 1980 in post-Vietnam America.
He was a police officer for nine years in Utah, where he suffered a neck injury in 1979. When he is below the surface of a water body, his pain is alleviated. Grattan left Utah after 19 years and returned to Michigan in 1999. Here he opened his own computer shop, which he closed in 2006, around the same time as his wife’s passing.
“I was diving for gold on my own, playing with a metal detector and having a lot of fun. … One of the reasons I wanted to become a cop was to help people,” Grattan says. “It’s just like fixing computers; it gives me a lot of satisfaction to do something nobody else can do. Most divers won’t touch muck and zero visibility. Most divers won’t dive like I do.”
These days, he is known as a staple in Lake St. Clair—a shallower lake with an average depth of approximately 9 feet. It’s a warm lake with 7-to-10-feet of visibility without wind.
Grattan started helping people find lost items around 2012. When one of his daughters created a Facebook page for him in 2018, documenting his myriad findings with backstories and pictures, “all heck broke loose,” he says.
“It’s nice there’s good people”
When Colin Gayadeen, of Dexter, Michigan, married his wife, Annie Gallinger, in 1999, he bought her a white gold-encrusted wedding ring with diamonds and a large central stone.
“I had turned in all of my retirement and everything to design this ring and have it purchased,” he says.
On Memorial Day 2019, the couple took their boat out on Lake St. Clair marina. Gayadeen stopped at the gas dock, where it took Annie multiple attempts to grab the rope and tie the boat.
About two minutes into the ride, she noticed her wedding ring was missing and “starts freaking out.” She was teary-eyed meeting up with friends.
The next day, Gayadeen called Grattan.
The three went back to the gas dock, where gas caps and random nuts and bolts are routine. Grattan put on his wetsuit and took a 17-foot plunge for approximately 45 minutes.
“He spent an extraordinarily longer amount of time on his last dive,” Gayadeen says. “I was thinking, ‘If he doesn’t find it now, it’s not going to happen.’”
The Gayadeens resized the ring after its recovery.
Grattan poked his head and arm through the water, holding the ring.
“I knew it was it,” Grattan says. “It had so many diamonds in it, it was huge. Most people don’t lose rings like that. They don’t usually have ’em on the boat.”
Gayadeen says his wife cried harder than when the ring was lost. The distressed husband withdrew the maximum amount of cash from the ATM and gave it to Grattan. While he doesn’t ask for financial restitution, people routinely give him a financial reward.
“It wasn’t the money for me because I was willing to get her a new one,” Gayadeen says. It was “just seeing her happy and relieved to have it. … (Grattan) didn’t ask for money. It was so worth it. I would do it again.”
The ring has since been resized.
Kym O’Brien, of Romeo, says she thought about her father, Richard Boes, a lot during the pandemic.
When he died in 2011, her mother bought family members engraved thumbprint charm necklaces that says: “You make me proud. Love, Papa.”
In 2013, her son lost his necklace in the lake. “I was devastated, he was devastated,” she says.
While quarantining last June, she came across Grattan’s Facebook page and all his photos. She couldn’t believe what she saw.
“All the sudden it caught my eye: I see the thumbprint from my dad. … My heart just sunk. I felt that it was my dad’s thumbprint because it’s identical to mine,” O’Brien says. “I instantly started crying and contacted him right away.”
Grattan believes he found the charm about a year after it was lost.
It was a full-circle moment for O’Brien, reunited with the necklace “at a time when I was really needing my dad.”
Grattan reunited O’Brien with the necklace “at a time when I was really needing my dad," she says.
When Ronald Szudarek, 40, graduated from Sterling Heights Stevenson High School in 1999, he donned a class ring containing the school’s name and his birthstone.
While “having a good time” on the water a few years post-graduation, the ring disappeared.
In 2019 Grattan’s daughter messaged Szudarek, telling him her father found a ring and would return it no questions asked.
“Honestly, I was kind of dumbfounded that nobody else had found it and it had been sitting there that long,” Szudarek says. “That was the only ring really in my life I ever owned. And he didn’t ask for anything. It’s nice there’s good people like that in the world.”
Grattan has changed many people’s lives, with many more likely to come.
“It’s my hobby, it’s adventure, and I plan to do it as long as I can,” he says.