clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Chicago firefighter uses metal detector to rescue lost items

Chicago firefighter Ron Guinazzo, shown in Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach on Thursday morning, gets out with his metal detector about five days a week. | Provided photo

Ron Guinazzo’s metal detector blurped and his 10-day gold drought ended this week on North Avenue Beach.

As the sand fell away, a gold chain with a pendant shaped like two fish dangled from his hand. Estimated value: $50.

Guinazzo, 55, says luck does not guide him. It’s persistence.

In the non-winter months, he waves the device about five days a week. He’s been at it for 35 years.

At his firehouse in the South Loop, Guinazzo is known by fellow Chicago firefighters as a bit of a “white cloud,” meaning fires rarely strike when he’s on duty, a likable quality in the profession.

Ron Guinazzo in front of the British Museum | Provided photo
Ron Guinazzo in front of the British Museum | Provided photo

On his website, Guinazzo is known as Chicago Ron. He posts pictures of his finds there and advertises metal detecting trips he leads in England.

“It’s an old guy pastime,” he said. A niche group, he explains, who delight in stories and backstories of their treasure. There are about 50 other hardcore folks like him on the beaches every day, he said.

Guinazzo’s wife, Gretchen, sometimes goes along for his early morning beachcombing sessions.

“I enjoy being out there. That’s my Zen. My nice and quiet,” said Guinazzo, who lives on the far North Side. “I’ll do this until they put me in the ground, and I become a relic.”

He began metal detecting after he lost his high school ring. He never found it. But the incident fuels his passion to return items whenever possible.

To avoid fraudsters, anyone claiming an item must be able to tell Guinazzo exactly where it was lost.

A few years ago, Guinazzo returned a silver necklace to a man who said he lost it directly in front of a life-guard chair on North Avenue Beach — and, sure enough, that’s where Guinazzo found it.

Ron Guinazzo leads metal-detecting trips to England. On one of them, he found this coin. | Provided photo
Ron Guinazzo leads metal-detecting trips to England. On one of them, he found this coin. | Provided photo

He has found rings engraved with initials and dates — presumably wedding dates.

Guinazzo has requested marital records from the city to see if he could find a match, but was told, it would not be possible because of privacy laws.

His name is on an online directory of metal detector enthusiasts willing to offer a hand if someone loses something. Two years ago, a man throwing his daughter in the air in Lake Michigan lost his wedding ring, which was insured for $61,000, and contacted Guinazzo through the website.

He drove to Southwest Michigan the next day and found the ring in three feet of water after five minutes of searching.

All he asks for in return is a letter from the person documenting the incident to keep in his records. The man gave him $300 anyway.

During a phone interview from the firehouse, and with hollering voices in the background, Guinazzo said, “Hang on” and put the phone down for a few moments.

“Sorry, that was the guys informing me that my dental commercial just came on,” he said.

That would be a commercial for Guinazzo’s dentist, who wanted to show off the work he had done on the firefighter’s teeth. Guinazzo got a few free dental treatments out of the deal.

The arrangement seems fitting: another unusual find, another story to tell.