Now, she is about to be reunited with the ring, after her son Thomas Wynne tracked down the well-travelled luggage and then flew from Rarotonga to Los Angeles to claim it and bring it home.
Wynne, who works in the Office of the prime minister, said his mother accompanied him and his wife Juanita to the Bahamas as part of a Carnival Cruise.
Mama Rangiteavae flew from her home in Gisborne, New Zealand, through to Auckland and then on to Rarotonga. Joined by Wynne and his wife, they boarded an Air New Zealand flight to Los Angeles, then switched to Spirit Airlines for the leg through to Fort Lauderdale.
That was where the cruise was to embark – and it was there that the bag containing the ring failed to come off the airport conveyor belt.
“We told Spirit Airlines the bag was lost and they were able to locate it the next day – in Puerto Rico,” ways Wynne.
“In the meantime we had an hour to find the nearest target, and Uber from our hotel and back again as mum only had the clothes she was wearing on the plane for the next week’s cruise ahead,” he said.
It was more distressing that mama Rangiteavae had put her black pearl jewellery and her engagement ring, from her husband, the late Tataiata Rangiteavae, in the bag.
From the cruise, they continuously rang Spirit Airlines – but the airline was unable to reunite them with the bag when their cruise returned to Fort Lauderdale. Instead, the bag made its way to the Caicos Islands.
Flying back via Los Angeles, they called Spirit Airlines at every opportunity, but eventually had to leave for Rarotonga without the bag – and without the engagement ring.
Wynne said they had given up hope of ever seeing the bag again – until last week, they received a surprise phone call from a friend in Los Angeles. The bag had been dropped off at her address, and the pearls and ring were still inside.
Mama Rangiteavae had been praying for its return – but Wynne decided to give God a helping hand by flying to Los Angeles to collect the bag. He wasn’t willing to risk it being lost again.