In search of Amelia Earhart's ring
By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor
Variety News Staff
SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands — VETERAN filmmakers and Amelia Earhart researchers are looking for her ring or parts of her airplane which some believed was destroyed on this island.
In last Friday’s public presentation at American Memorial Park arranged by the Northern Marianas Humanities Council, a member of the audience’s second-hand story about Amelia Earhart’s ring piqued the interest of the Earhart investigators.
Veteran documentary filmmaker Rich Martini, who previously interviewed U.S. Marines who claimed they saw Amelia Earhart’s plane on Saipan in 1944, asked the Matilde Arriola descendant in the audience for permission to interview her. “I want to tape you now, tonight or tomorrow at Uncle Dave [Sablan]’s office?”
“It’s not my story actually,” the lady replied.
Martini said that they welcome second-hand accounts.
She said since she was a little girl, she has heard the story of an American woman who was here on Saipan.
She also spoke of the ring that was handed to Matilde Arriola and later given to Trinidad — the grandmother of the audience member.
She said, “Grandma’s sister gave it to my grandma.”
She said it became a family heirloom.
There were occasions too when she was made to draw the ring.
Martini asked her for more information about the ring.
She said, “I am not really sure. It had a stone.”
Referring to an interview conducted by Fr. Arnold Bendowske in 1977 with Matilde Fausto Arriola, Martini said it was an extensive one.
He said based on that interview, “The ring was white, white gold in a white setting.”
Based on his reading and research on Earhart, Martini said Earhart never wore jewelry.
He said, “She did have one ring — it was platinum.”
Martini did say that Earhart had been given gifts everywhere she stopped on her world tour.
“Somewhere along the way she may have picked up the ring,” said Martini.
Martini also found it interesting that someone would borrow jewelry. “There is something weird about the story. Who borrows jewelry?”
According to accounts, Trinidad borrowed the ring, then took it to Chuuk where she lost it.
Martini asked if the grandmother’s house still existed.
The Arriola relative said, “Yes.”
She said she wouldn’t be able to locate it, but her mother would.
Martini asked her to help them find the ring.
Martini made arrangements to talk further with her.
On their website, earhartonsaipan.com, the Earhart researchers wrote, “We are going to their old home tomorrow to dowse and use ground penetrating radar for the ring — which was reportedly lost during a rainstorm somewhere under the old house.”
Earhart’s ring was mentioned by Matilde Fausto Arriola in her 1977 interview with Fr. Arnold Bendowske.
Bendowske told Arriola that he was asked by Admiral Carroll through Bishop Flores to have the interview by tape.
According to the tape transcript, Arriola recalled that Earhart “knew my sister, Consolacion, when she was going to the school with the sisters. She gave Consolacion a ring and then also some kind of balsam that smelled good. She gave her that and the ring.”
Bendowske asked her what kind of ring, Arriola said, “Father, the stone was a white stone and I believe it was white gold, the setting which she gave my sister. There was a stone in the ring. And when she came to the house she gave my sister…and when my sister was sick, she took the ring off of her finger and gave me that ring and I took care of that ring until after the war. And then Trinidad, the daughter of my brother, borrowed the ring when they went to Truk and it was lost there.”
Arriola’s house was not far from Hotel Kobayashi Royokan where Earhart stayed or was held by the Japanese.
She said, “That woman came to our house and sort of peeped in from the outside when she was coming from or going to the outside toilet and that was how she used to pass by our house, because we were located between the short distance of the place where she was staying, called a hotel, and the outside toilet.”
Arriola believed that she could have been suffering from diarrhea.
She claimed she saw her speak to her brother and mother in English. She also said that she appeared to have burns from cooking oil.
She told Bendowske in that 1977 interview, “She got burnt. It was on one side of her and her hand had burn marks. The woman did look sick to me. My mother said the same thing.”
She told Bendowske that she figured the woman died when wreaths were ordered.
But the last time she saw her, “When she left for the last time, she held my hand very tightly…”