Derek Yuen said he noticed something was missing as his 94-year-old mother Doris was given last rites in her room at the West End Villa long-term care facility.
"I'm sitting on the bed, I look over my mother's left hand. It's under the sheet, but her right hand's on top. I pull the sheet back and all of sudden I notice that my mom's wedding ring is missing."
Derek Yuen said his mother, who operated the Green Dragon Chinese Gift Shop on Sparks Street for 75 years, lived a good and long life, but he can't come to terms with the mysterious disappearance.
It seemed Doris Yuen was aware the ring she had proudly worn for decades was gone, even as she slipped in and out of consciousness, he said.
"When we were giving the last rites, the one thing she did do was give me the royal wave. She'd put up her hand and go like this and drop it back down," he said.
"And in my mind I'm going, 'Yeah, I know, I know the ring's gone.'"
Derek Yuen alerted nursing home administrators and they quickly searched the room. The ring wasn't found.
His mother died that night, Feb. 16.
When Derek Yuen pursued the issue of the missing ring, he was told interviews with staff had also yielded no results. He urged for Ottawa police to get involved and an investigation is underway.
Extendicare, the company that operates West End Villa, issued a statement about the incident which refers to the "allegation that some rings are missing."
"We would like to express our condolences to the Yuen family. We are sorry that they have had to go through this difficult experience and we are committed to working with them to conduct a thorough investigation," the statement said.
Derek Yuen estimates the missing diamond ring is worth $40,000, but the enduring love it represents is priceless.
He is holding out hope the ring was misplaced or borrowed, and he will see it again.
"It's not the dollar value. It's the sentimental value," he said.
Familiar face on Sparks Street
Doris Yuen was a staple of the Sparks Street Mall for 75 years. In 1939, she and her husband Searl Wind Yuen opened the Green Dragon Chinese Gift Shop, selling souvenirs and knick-knacks.
After her husband died, Doris and her sons carried on the family business until it closed for good in 2014.