Who would have thought or predicted that a 76-year-old grandmother from New Jersey, Gerry Kennedy, would become fast friends with Ruger president/CEO Mike Fifer due in part to a thank you letter she sent him?
But this lady isn’t typical of some retirees who in their golden years flock like snowbirds to southern climes in Florida or Arizona every winter to enjoy the warmth, sunshine, and maybe a little shuffleboard, which they view as a big part of their “outdoor activities.” Nope, rather, this gun-totin’ lady, who had overcome the recent death of her husband and some serious health issues, heads every year to the upper reaches of Maine in the snow and cold of winter to enjoy camp in a remote cabin with her family and friends, do a little shooting, and when the time is right, heads into the woods to hunt deer and other critters.
She’s an amazing lady by all counts… .
It turns out her contact with Ruger’s president is more short term than her long-standing love affair with a Ruger single-action revolver. Her husband, Wes, had given her a new .22 rimfire Single-Six in 1986 as a Christmas present. Apparently, the Single-Six was always at home on her hip when she traversed the woodlands in Maine. She loved that gun, the way it looked, the way it handled, and the way it shot.
Well, the worst thing possible happened in 2002 when on one of her hunting trips she lost the revolver in a heavy snow in the woods of Maine and couldn’t find it despite looking under every bush and tree in the area where she thought it had accidentally fallen to the ground.
She was heartbroken. The gun that she had become so attached to, that meant so much to her because it was a gift from her husband, was lost on the forest floor to rust and eventually rot away–or so she thought.
But after more than eight years passed, her son, John, and his brother, Joe decided to become more proactive and with the help of a metal detector, headed back out in the wooded area where they thought she had lost the stainless Ruger.
While the revolver probably wasn’t worth more than $300, you would have thought she had lost a Perazzi or Purdey–or her life savings–if you asked her about her emotional attachment to that Ruger and how much she valued it.
“Her father took her hunting all the time,” noted John. “She met my dad when she was 15 and when they got engaged he gave her a gun (an H&R 20-gauge single-shot Topper) instead of an engagement ring. While they were dating back in the early ’50s, they didn’t always go to the drive-in theater, they sometimes went to the town dump to shoot rats.
“She still hunts at age 76. She recently had back surgery but she won’t give up her passion for hunting and shooting. She’s one tough lady.”
Gerry and Wes had eight children, and you better believe it, Gerry demanded that all eight sons and daughters take a hunter safety course.
But back to the Ruger. “I never owned a handgun before, and couldn’t believe this was actually mine,” Gerry noted.
“She fell in love with that gun,” John added. “You have no idea what this gun meant to her. When she lost it she was devastated. We advertised in the local paper and offered a reward for the gun’s return, but no luck.”
“To say I was devastated the afternoon I lost that gun doesn’t begin to explain the shame I felt,” Gerry added. “I didn’t want to leave the woods or the state of Maine until I found it. I can’t put into words how it felt to go home with an empty holster.”
Long story short, with the help of the metal detector, John found the revolver. The stainless was weather worn and a little bit worse for wear having survived eight harsh summers and winters on the Maine forest floor. “We were so happy we were hugging each other in the pouring rain when we found it,” John said as he relived the emotional moment. But the gun needed to be refurbished. The grips had rotted to the point of breaking away from the grip frame, there was rust around the front and rear sights, and the gun just needed a thorough ground-up restoration.
John contacted Gil Oliveira in Ruger’s customer service center in Newport, New Hampshire, and asked about getting a set of wood replacement grips. But Ruger told him to ship the gun to them and they would inspect the revolver and take care of the rest.
“We wanted it to be a surprise to Mom when we got the gun back. To our surprise when we got it back it was in pristine condition–like new,” John noted. “We knew what it meant to her. She got choked up and nearly cried when she saw the refinished Ruger.
“When we got the gun back from Ruger, and Mom opened the box, she fell in love with it all over again,” John added. “That Ruger revolver is a piece of our family history. We were all so extremely happy with the work Ruger had done for us, and we simply can’t thank them enough.”
“It was absolutely beautiful,” Gerry added. “I was floored by the graciousness of the people at Ruger.”
To top off a great storyline, Ruger waived all fees for the work done.
Mike Fifer’s reaction to this story that has a happy ending? “What a thrill it is for all of us at Ruger when we get to help out on a wonderful story like this,” noted Fifer, who genuinely enjoys interacting with Ruger customers. “ I am so impressed by the persistence and rugged determination of Gerry and her sons to keep looking for her Single-Six for eight years. They are our kind of folks, and we’re proud to make firearms for them.”
A tip of the Guns & Ammo cap to Mike Fifer and Ruger for showing they really do care about their customers—even that hard-hunting, handgun-carrying grandmother in the Garden State—and to Gerry’s family for never giving up in looking for that lost revolver that meant so much to their mom and for telling a heart-felt story describing how important firearms are to families across this great country of ours….