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13 years after his father’s passing, young man receives unexpected gift

LAPLACE — Tyler Sandefer of LaPlace wears an 1850s California gold half dollar in a pendant around his neck without concern for how much the coin might be worth — to him, it is a priceless reminder of the father he lost 13 years ago.

Until recently, Tyler didn’t know that Roy Jeffrey Sandefer visited Roussel’s Fine Jewelry & Gifts in LaPlace in March 2008, just one month before his death, and arranged for two old coins to be turned into pendants for his family.

Tyler was only 9 years old when he said goodbye to his father. Roy’s final weeks were spent in Mississippi as his cancer progressed, and he never had the chance to pick up the pendants he ordered.

It was the surprise of a lifetime when Tyler, now 22 years old, received the gift his father left for him all those years ago.

Tyler was getting his hair cut when the barber went to shave the back of his neck and accidentally popped the chain he was wearing at the time. A few days later, he decided to visit Roussel’s in LaPlace to purchase a replacement chain.

Store manager Earl Rodrigue Jr. was behind the counter when it was time to check out. Earl asked for Tyler’s last name, to which he responded, “Sandefer.” Earl repeated the name to himself as he typed the name into the computer and stared at the screen.

“Tyler Sandefer?” he asked, a curious expression on his face.

Tyler nodded, and Earl continued, “I’ve got something for you. Your dad died a long time ago, didn’t he?”

“Yes, in 2008,” Tyler said.

“That’s right, 2008,” Earl mused as he dug through the files in his drawer and pulled out a pink envelope covered in writing.

The original label, dated Feb. 23, 2008, indicated that Roy visited the store and requested two gold coins to be placed in bezel set rings. The word “rings” was scratched out and replaced with “pendant” in March 2008.

Handwritten notes on the envelope documented years’ worth of attempts to contact Roy’s family. Some notes included “called 6/5/08,” “sent letter 5/27/11,” and “6/4/18 – Phone # no longer in service.” At the top of the envelope was the word “deceased,” and inside were the two golden pendants Roy purchased before his passing.

Tyler wasn’t prepared for the rush of emotions that hit him all at once.

“I wasn’t expecting to go to a jewelry shop and get something my dad left for me when he died 13 years ago. It makes me happy, sad, kind of excited. You can’t really put a price on this,” Tyler said.

Tyler’s grandparents, James and Joan Felder of LaPlace, were in an equal state of disbelief. They commend the Roussel’s staff for keeping the precious gifts safe for so many years.

“It’s hard for me to believe that something like this could happen after 13 years. Very seldom do you ever hear of anybody doing something like that. You’ve got somebody trustworthy over there at Roussel’s,” James said.

Joan added, “Being in the jewelry business, I’m sure Earl knows the value of things. He could’ve sold it. Nobody knew about it by him, so that says a lot about him.”

The pendants also memorialize one of Roy’s favorite hobbies. Tyler remembers his father was an avid coin collector, and they bonded over collecting the 50 States Quarters that were minted between 1999 and 2008. The final four quarters in the collection were released shortly after his passing.

Roy is also remembered as a longtime police officer with the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics. He grew up in Mississippi and came to Louisiana after meeting Tyler’s mother in New Orleans.

Tyler is grateful to have a small piece of his father with him always. The other pendant from Roussel’s now hangs around his mother’s neck.

“If I had never popped my chain while getting my hair cut, the events never would have happened the way they did. We would never have known about it,” Tyler said.