Stephanie Winnek could not believe what she stumbled upon.
After finding a message in a bottle, Stephanie Winnek feels that she’s now forever linked with a family that lives 1,160 miles away.
While at her job at Cinnamon Beach in the Hammock, Winnek noticed a glass bottle in the sand that was clearly worn from years in the ocean on Oct. 30.
“I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, there’s something rolled up and tied in it, like a message in a bottle,’” said Winnek, an Ormond Beach resident.
Later, after her husband broke open the bottle so they could see the contents, Winnek found a letter that detailed the life of a mother from Rhode Island named Cynthia Rounds who had died from cancer at age 53 on March 2, 2010.
This struck a chord with Winnek, as her own father, Norman Osborn, died from pancreatic cancer in 2003. She said she couldn’t help but tear up as she thought of her twin 10-year-old sons and her father.
Winnek also found a plastic bag in the bottle that she thought contained sand, but later found out contained the cremated ashes of Rounds.
“It was incredible,” she said. “Really, I was emotional about it because it was somebody’s mom, and it spent four years in the ocean from Rhode Island, and that it just washed up here and that I found it. It was crazy — like surreal almost,” she said.
When Winnek reached out to the woman’s daughter, Athina McAller, to let her know that her mother’s bottle was found, the news was met with great enthusiasm.
Winnek and her mother, Carrie Osborn, knew they had to continue this woman’s travel through the waves, so Osborn asked Ocean Art Gallery Owner Frank Gromling if he could contact an artist to decorate the new bottle. Gromling, a Rhode Island native, was eager and humbled to help. Artist Rick Cannizzaro painted palm trees and a beach scene on the new bottle to properly do Rounds’ journey justice.
“We wanted to do something because when (Athina) sent the bottle out it was beautifully decorated with beads and shells glued to the top of it,” she said.
Winnek is still looking for someone with a boat to help send the newly-painted bottle to sea to continue Rounds’ adventure around the world.
“I don’t even know if I found the bottle or if the bottle found me,” she said.