It was one of the hardest things that Pat Madison had ever done, but it was something that she didn’t think twice about doing.
In May, the 67-year-old Brainerd resident traded in her treasured Army ring she purchased in 1964 to help out her 17-year-old grandson, Chance Fiebing, who needed gear for the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
“My grandson needed some things at Crazy Jim’s for Civil Air Patrol and he didn’t have the money and I didn’t have the money,” said Madison. “But I had this ring that is worth something so we traded it.
“It was very hard to trade my ring. I cried for a couple of days. Chance would ask me ‘What can I do for you, Grandma? I really love you.’ I told him not to just love me for doing this for him. Love me for me and he does. We had a lot of hugs and kisses. I’d do anything for my grandkids.”
Fiebing, a Brainerd High School senior, said, “I was very humbled and thought that this is a selfless thing for her to do, but that’s my grandma. She is selfless and has been all her life. Her grandkids always come first, just like the typical grandma ... It meant a lot to me.”
Madison purchased the Army ring the year she joined the Army in 1964. She finished her six-week training at Fort McClellan in Oklahoma and then her medic training as a nurse in Fort Sam, Houston. Madison was in the Army from 1964-66.
Madison said during her basic training they didn’t let soldiers off the base much, but when she was given a chance she went off the base and purchased the ring because “it’s a gorgeous ring.”
“The girl’s ring was too small so I got the men’s ring because I liked that it had a larger band,” said Madison. “I paid $100 odd dollars for it, I think around $180. It’s not my birthstone, but I like red so I got it. They wouldn’t let you wear any jewelry at training besides a watch, so I kept it in my locker. I checked it every day to make sure it was there.”
Madison said when she got out of the Army she gave the ring to her mother to keep for her.
“My mother wrapped the ring in toilet paper and stored it away in her mother’s hope chest,” said Madison.
Madison said she never got her ring back until her mother died 13 years ago. Madison was looking through her mother’s things and found it in the hope chest. From then on she wore it every day, up until the day she traded it in May.
Little did Madison know that the Army ring would one day be returned to her. On Aug. 6, Madison was in tears again. The CAP presented the Army ring back to Madison.
“Oh, I just cried like a baby,” said Madison. “I was so happy ... I was beat red.”
Madison joined the CAP in February and the night she got the ring back she also was promoted to second lieutenant. Earlier, Madison brought her grandson to CAP and she’d sit in her vehicle and wait for him to be done. But one day he talked her into coming inside with him to see what CAP was all about because he thought she’d be interested in it. And she was.
Cindy McCarthy of the CAP said she found out about the ring one day while at Crazy Jim’s with some students looking for uniforms.
“I gravitated up to the jewelry counter and I saw this beautiful ring,” said McCarthy. “And the owner of Crazy Jim’s said, ‘That’s Pat Madison’s ring,’ and I was shocked at first and I asked why she brought it in and he told me the story.”
McCarthy said she talked to Madison about the ring and found out that Madison really wanted the ring back and that she was working hard to get the money to buy it back.
“Pat really wanted the ring back; it held a lot of memories for her,” said McCarthy. “I shared this story with the other adult members of the Civil Air Patrol and they were all in tears. So we all threw in some money to try to get the ring back.”
McCarthy said she went back to Crazy Jim’s and asked them how much the ring was and they weren’t even close to the $300, the value Madison traded it for gear for her grandson. McCarthy said that the owner then said he would pick up some of the cost if she could gather a few more donations. She did and they were able to purchase the ring for Madison.
“Pat is a very sacrificial grandma,” said McCarthy. “She was like, ‘my kids need this’ and she had something of value to trade.
McCarthy said the emergency items Fiebing had to get were useful as he was on the CAP’s emergency services ground team. The team Fiebing was on helped locate the signals of a downed plane in early June along the North Shore.
“The items Fiebing had to get, he was using them in the community for a purpose,” said McCarthy. “When you sit down and realize that she was helping Chance put together his emergency pack, you realize the impact she had. It’s a real heart-warming story. And she is a veteran herself, which is equally touching. To dig deep and give up something so precious, in this day and age, it’s amazing.”