07/08/12 — Gem mystery solved: Box is claimed

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Gem mystery solved: Box is claimed

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 8, 2012 1:50 AM

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Sandra Castle, right, shows Wayne County Manager Lee Smith some of the minerals and semi-precious stones that her late husband mined in the late 1970s to help pay his way through college.

For Wayne County officials, the box of minerals and semi-precious stones that showed up in their mailroom was a mystery.

For Sandra Castle, it was a box full of memories -- the items belonged to her late husband, Jack.

Jack Castle attended the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, N.M. in the late 1970s, and paid his way through school by mining gems and minerals. He mined more than he needed and boxed and labeled the extra minerals.

Mrs. Castle found them some months back and is in the process of selling them to a dealer in New York.

The errant box was one of five she had mailed to the buyer.

Mrs. Castle, a Wayne County magistrate and native of the Calypso community in Duplin County, did not know the box had gone missing, until she read an article in the July 1 issue of the News-Argus.

"I just started laughing and said, 'Oh, my goodness,'" she said. "Somebody else was handling the transaction for me. There were 39 flats in five large boxes.

"I am not sure what I will do with them right now. I have mixed feelings about selling them anyway. He just always had them as long as I had known him. They went where we went and people would say, 'Oh those rocks.'"

She said that her husband, who died four years ago, and a friend mined played out mines and other areas to collect the rocks.

The mystery at the county office started last month when a large furniture box showed up for a second time in the county mailroom.

County spokesperson Barbara Arntsen said she was unsure exactly when the box containing the chair had originally been delivered for the magistrate's office.

Both she and Mrs. Castle suspect that the new shipping label on the re-used box was lost, and since it still had the original label addressed to the county, was delivered back to the county.

The office supply company the county deals with was contacted and told that the county had not ordered what was thought to be a second chair.

But weeks later when the box had not been picked up, employees in another county department decided they could use the chair, Ms. Arntsen said.

The box was finally opened, but instead of a chair, the employees found the minerals and semi-precious stones -- starting the search for the owner.