Lucky Irish coin finds its way back to owner

In this time of shattering news and overwhelming needs, we can all use a happy story. Michael Huston has one.

After an absent-minded moment, the Marysville man was one unlucky guy. Huston, a 48-year-old Snohomish County employee, was on his way to Qwest Field Saturday for the Seahawks’ final game of the season. Entering the stadium, he encountered volunteers with Northwest Medical Teams International Inc., a nonprofit agency collecting funds for Asian tsunami relief.

Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

Mike Huston and his lucky coin were reunited after he accidentally tossed it into a donation tin at the Seahawks game.

“I only had change in my pocket. I had forgotten I had my lucky 1-pound Irish coin with me,” Huston said. “So I threw a few quarters into the bucket.”

Once inside, a sinking uh-oh feeling hit Huston with the force of a 250-pound lineman. He had inadvertently donated his lucky coin.

He’d had it since a trip to Ireland in 1995. Like all Irish currency, it’s been replaced by the euro. Once worth about $1.25, Huston’s 1990 coin has the Irish harp symbol on one side and an Irish red deer on the other, along with the word “punt” for pound in the Irish language.

As a collector’s item, it’s no big deal. Dennis King, owner of Odyssey Stamps and Coins in Everett, said the coin is too modern to be worth much more than whatever the exchange rate was during its use. “They made millions of them,” King said.

For Huston, the coin’s value is sentimental. It’s a memento of a two-day visit to Dublin on a trip to Ireland, England and Wales.

“Dublin is really a fun town,” Huston said. He walked across the O’Connell Street Bridge, visited Trinity College, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Guinness Brewery Hop Store at St. James Gate.

“I may have gotten that coin in the change there,” Huston said. “I’ve considered it my lucky coin ever since. I pull it out every St. Patrick’s Day, go to a pub and have a pint.

“Saturday, I really thought it would bring us the luck we needed,” said Huston, a longtime Seahawks fan and former president of the Sea Hawkers Booster Club.

All of this went through his mind as he scrawled a plea for the coin’s return on the back of his Snohomish County business card. He gave it to Northwest Medical Teams volunteers on the stadium’s upper concourse.

Blue about both losses – the game and the coin – he went home to wait. Sunday evening, Huston had a call from Dick Frederick, executive director of the Washington office of Northwest Medical Teams in Bellevue.

“People counting the money had Mr. Huston’s request. They put all the coins out on a table and looked diligently, but couldn’t find it. Then, in one of the very last buckets from the end of the game, they found it,” Frederick said. “They turned it over to me and said, ‘Here’s a new duty for you – punt returner.’”

Northwest Medical Teams, based in Portland, Ore., had about 250 volunteers at Saturday’s game, Frederick said. “We raised a little over $56,000 this last Saturday, and almost $65,000 at the game the week before that.”

Saturday’s total included at least $1,000 in change.

When Huston learned that the coin had been found, he sent back a letter that began “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” and included a $25 check.

With volunteer doctors, nurses and paramedics, Northwest Medical Teams has 27 people in tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka and Indonesia. “I’m amazed at the number of people willing to drop everything on two or three days notice, give up a month and serve across the world,” Frederick said.

In recent years, the agency has been in Kosovo, Afghanistan, northern Iraq, Sudan, Uganda and Liberia.

“The magnitude of this latest tragedy is unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Frederick said. “The worst things that happen in life tend to bring out the best in people.”

Huston’s gift, minus the mistake, is a drop in a very big bucket. As Frederick said, “It all counts.”

And, just in case that coin continues to be lucky, Huston should take it to every game – and avoid the concession stands.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or muhlsteinjulie@heraldnet.com.

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