COEUR d'ALENE - The tears began to well in Gwen Hanson's eyes as she described the sentimental value of her recently stolen antique stove.
"It's the first thing my husband ever bought me," she said.
Gwen and her husband, Hank, planned to restore it and display it in their newly-opened item shop.
But in the wee hours of March 9, someone dragged the rare, nearly 100-pound 1898 Quick Meal stove right off the front walkway of Hanksters Unique Items at 3024 Government Way.
The drag marks are plainly still there, evidence of an unfortunate theft that left the Athol couple surprised, agitated, and for Gwen, very upset.
"I literally sat up all night Monday night and cried," she said.
The stove was right next to the front door of the shop late into March 8. Hank, a Vietnam veteran, had just returned from a trip to their former home in Hot Springs, Mont., with a load of belongings. The Hansons, both retired and with disabilities, could not get the heavy metal stove inside at the end of a late, rainy night. Gwen grabbed the oil tank, which is light enough to carry but also necessary to use the stove. She and Hank proceeded to work on cleaning a flood in the rear of the shop. They were both in the back of the store when the theft occurred, but they couldn't see or hear anything in the storefront.
At first, the stove was hidden from sight behind their minivan. But when Gwen made a short errand trip, she parked the vehicle in a different spot, so the stove was exposed.
"When she moved (the minivan), it made it out in the clear," Hank said.
"I didn't even think about it," Gwen added.
Hank bought the stove for Gwen in 2004 while they were still dating. He got a good deal because he found it in a Missoula store that was going out of business. The Hansons share a love of antiques and collecting. They estimated the stove to be worth $500 or more, but for the Hansons, it's not just about the money.
"I just wish whoever took it would bring it back," Gwen said. "The sentimental value is priceless."
The stove is rare because its innovative wickless model was only made by Standard Light Company in Cleveland in 1897 and '98. The Hansons' stove is black and rust-colored with two top burners, a large side burner and brass tanks underneath. The corners and legs are decorated with ornate cast iron filigree. It reads "1898 Cleveland" on the bottom of the stove.
Gwen called recycling venues and antique stores in the area and filed a report with the Coeur d'Alene Police Department on March 11. The Hansons are offering a small reward for the return of the stove.
"Just please bring it back, no questions asked," Hank said. "It would be greatly appreciated."
Call 665-2483 to report information leading to the stolen antique stove's recovery.