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Widow Parts With Rare Emerald From 1622 Shipwreck to Help Ukraine



For years, Mitzi Perdue looked down at her hand and saw history.

The emerald stone on her ring finger told a story stretching back nearly four centuries, to the sinking of a Spanish galleon near the Florida Keys in 1622 and a decades-long effort of a colorful undersea treasure hunter named Mel Fisher to retrieve its payload of gold and silver coins, gold nuggets and jewelry.

It reminded her, too, of her late husband, the chicken magnate Frank Perdue, who received a share of the bounty in return for his investment in Mr. Fisher’s search. He donated most of it, but kept the emerald and presented it to her when he proposed marriage in 1988. She wore it until his death in 2005, when she put it away for safekeeping.

Now, 400 years after the Nuestra Señora de Atocha sank in a hurricane, Ms. Perdue, 81, is putting the emerald up for auction on Wednesday at Sotheby’s in New York City. All proceeds from the sale of the ring, which Sotheby’s says has an estimated value of $50,000 to $70,000, will be donated to support humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, prompted by Ms. Perdue’s visit there this year after the Russian invasion.

“What must it be like for the people who have been there enduring, continuously with no respite, for at least half a year?” she said. “After five days, I wanted to do more. And then I started thinking, ‘What can I do to be most helpful?’ And then I thought, ‘I own something that’s of historic significance.’”

The Nuestra Señora de Atocha set sail from Havana for Spain on Sept. 4, 1622, with a payload that included 180,000 coins, 24 tons of ingots struck from Bolivian silver, 125 gold bullion bars and 70 pounds of rough-cut emeralds mined in present-day Colombia. It had been sailing for only a day when it and another vessel, the Santa Margarita, were struck by a hurricane and sank west of Key West.

Mr. Fisher, who died in 1998, had been obsessed with treasure hunting since reading “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson as a boy. After serving in the Army in Europe during World War II and studying engineering at Purdue and the University of Alabama, he briefly turned to chicken farming in California before opening a diving shop in Redondo Beach, Calif. He moved his family to Florida in 1962, lured by the promise of finding offshore treasure.

He and his associates used modern electronics to recover gold and other artifacts from wrecks of a Spanish fleet that sank in a storm off Florida’s Atlantic coast in 1715. By 1969, he had embarked on a search for the Atocha, which he had read about in a book called “The Treasure Diver’s Guide.”

The search for the Atocha’s treasure proved costly for Mr. Fisher. It consumed more than 15 years of his life, and he lost a son and daughter-in-law when their boat capsized and sank in 1975. Finally, in 1985, Mr. Fisher and his team located the wreckage of the Atocha and recovered about $400 million worth of treasure.

“When you’re the first person to see something after three or four hundred years, it just gives you goose bumps,” Mr. Fisher’s son Kim Fisher, who joined his father’s search for the Atocha when he was 12, said in an interview. “And it just makes you want to find more.”

Encouraged by a close friend, Frank Perdue signed on as a patron of the expedition and forged a bond with Mr. Fisher over their shared history of chicken farming. Mr. Perdue was at the pinnacle of his fame as an unlikely TV pitchman — “It takes a tough man to raise a tender chicken” — for his company, Perdue Farms, when the Atocha was found in 1985.

Mr. Perdue was given a share of the treasure proportional to his investment. He gave most of his gems and silver and gold coins to the Smithsonian Institution and to Delaware Technical Community College, where they are on display in an exhibit called “Treasures of the Sea.”

But Mr. Perdue kept two items for himself: a gold doubloon and the emerald.

Mr. Perdue met the woman who would become his third wife at a party in Washington, D.C., not far from his home in Maryland. They courted by phone for about a month — Ms. Perdue was living in California at the time — and the next time they saw each other, she said, he went to his safe and retrieved the emerald ring. They were married in 1988.

“When he gave me the emerald he got from the Atocha, nothing in the world could be more exciting — other than being engaged,” she said.

The emerald was mined in Colombia in the 17th century. Alexander Eblen, a senior specialist of Sotheby’s jewelry department in New York, said it was a pristine example of an old-mine emerald.

“This is a stone that is a Goldilocks stone,” he said, “where it’s a very strong green, a pure green, and also neither too light nor too dark.”

Its estimated value of $50,000 to $70,000 is based only on the condition of the gem, Mr. Eblen said. Bidders at the auction, which are likely to include museums and private collectors, will also take into account its history as well as the cause they are supporting, he said.

Ms. Perdue traveled to Ukraine earlier this year to learn more about human trafficking, a subject that she writes about for Psychology Today. Because of an air raid threat, she spent her first night in Kyiv in a bomb shelter, and it ended up being one of the most consequential experiences of her life, she said.

She thought of her engagement ring, which she had kept in a safe since her husband’s death, and it occurred to her that she could use it to raise money and awareness of suffering in Ukraine since the Russian invasion. She said she did not yet know which organization she would choose to receive the proceeds.

When Mr. Perdue proposed, she initially thought she would wear the ring only for special occasions, but her husband convinced her that it was worth wearing daily. She said she was glad she followed his advice, especially as the emerald moves on to the next chapter in its 400-year story.

“I’d love to shake the hand of the person who gets it,” she said, “and to wish them success and joy.”

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Amanda Seyfried and Thomas Sadoski: A Timeline of Their Relationship



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How GMA hosts Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes’ romantic scandal happened



It may be the happiest problem that Bob Iger, newly-reinstated president of ABC’s parent company Disney, will face as he retakes the reins of the conglomerate and its top-rated cash cow “Good Morning America.”

Two of “GMA”‘s most dependable — and, until recently, very married to other people — star anchors, Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes, are drawing even more attention to the No. 1 morning show as a result of their bombshell secret romance.

Insider say the affair, revealed this past week in a series of photos showing the pair canoodling in a Lincoln Center-area bar and at a cozy rented cabin upstate, is translating into what one source called “ratings gold” for the show.

Word is that Robach and Holmes, both 49, who began co-hosting “GMA 3” together in 2020, won’t be disciplined for carrying on behind the scenes — at least so far.

The drama could get messier though. Multiple sources told Page Six Friday that Holmes — who has been wed to Marilee Fiebig since 2010 — had an alleged three-year affair with a married producer at “GMA,” Natasha Singh beginning in 2016.

There is industry speculation that the scandal might boost "GMA3" ratings.
There is industry speculation that the scandal might boost “GMA3” ratings.
ABC via Getty Images

Holmes and the producer both confided in mutual friend Robach as they tried to figure out how to leave their spouses.

“Amy was the person they went to talk about their affair and marriages,” according to one insider.

As rumors swirled about Holmes and Robach, another source said, “Marilee never considered Amy because she was focused on Natasha. She never thought about [Holmes cheating] with Amy because they were friends. Amy’s daughter was their daughter’s babysitter.”

Insiders say Holmes started having an affair in 2016 with a married producer.
Getty Images
A picture of Amy Robach.
Robach was reportedly a confidant of the producer with whom Holmes had an affair.
Getty Images

Holmes reportedly ended the affair and started working with Fiebig to reconcile their marriage throughout the pandemic. Robach remained friends with Singh and it angered Fiebig because “she would see photos of them on Instagram and she didn’t understand how their friend and her husband’s co-host could remain friends with the woman who tried to break up their marriage,” the first source said.

All that is apparently in the past for Holmes and Robach. The two came to work unapologetically last week after the news broke. They omitted any mention of the scandal during Thursday and Friday’s shows — privately proclaiming that the affair began after the two shed their respective spouses.

“They’re not ashamed. They’re two consenting adults who ended up loving each other,” one ABC source told Page Six.

A picture of TJ Holmes and his then-wife, Marilee.
Holmes was married to Marilee Fiebig since 2010, but they reportedly split in August 2022.
Getty Images for Jackie Robinson

In fact, the two giggled together on set Thursday prior to baking holiday cookies with chef Caroline Schiff, with Robach happily announcing, “It’s Friday eve!” Robach looked carefree when photographed returning to her Manhattan apartment solo after Friday’s show.

However, insiders say there has been collateral damage in the form of the spouses left behind. Robach married former “Melrose Place” star Andrew Shue in 2010, the same year T.J. Holmes tied the knot with immigration lawyer Fiebig.

A staffer at “GMA” told Page Six that Holmes and Fiebig had been separated for six months but were trying to “work things out” when news of his romance with Robach broke Wednesday.

A picture of Amy Robach and her husband, Andrew Shue.
Robach has been married to “Melrose Place” actor Andrew Shue since 2010.
Getty Images for Levis

“She’s devastated. She had no idea,” the source said. “They haven’t been together in [a while], but they were trying to work it out.

“They were just together for T.J.’s birthday,” which was Aug. 19.

The source notes that while Fiebig hasn’t been wearing her wedding ring, the now-estranged couple was attempting to reconcile.

Shue, for his part, wiped Robach off all his social media accounts.

A picture of TJ Holmes and Amy Robach on the GMA3 Thursday and Friday morning.
The co-hosts were back on the air Thursday and Friday morning but did not address the scandal all around them.

Robach and Holmes reportedly may have been romantically intertwined since at least March, when they were training for the New York City marathon. Sources told The Post on Thursday that Robach and the “Melrose Place” alum’s divorce is nearly finalized.

“He moved out earlier this summer,” one source shared. “They’ve constantly had problems over the years, and they finally broke up.”

Just one year ago, though, in a joint December 2021 interview with Robach on “The View,” Shue gushed about his wife and the success of their marriage and mutual step-parenting. The appearance was pegged to a children’s book they authored, “Better Together.”

A picture of Holmes and Robach training for a March half-marathon.
Page Six has reported that Holmes and Robach were getting cozy while training for a March half-marathon.
New York Road Runners via Getty Images
A picture of Robach and her husband during the half marathon.
Robach also ran with her husband Shue.
NYRR via Getty Images

“This is our greatest achievement because it is not easy,” Shue said at the time about their marriage. “Anybody who’s blended a family knows that when you’re bringing together different parenting styles it is very hard.”

Robach has two daughters, Ava and Analise, with ex-husband Tim McIntosh, while Shue shares sons Nate, Aidan, and Wyatt with his ex-wife, Jennifer Hageney. Shue said blending their families was challenging but rewarding.

“I give Amy all the credit for really sticking with it because there were a lot of times where I was kind of the problem in figuring out how to create a playbook together,” he explained during the interview. “I resisted. It’s tough to have two playbooks. You have to have one playbook. And when you’re married for the first time, it’s obvious you have one playbook. And Amy has brought so much to my boys, discipline, and love. It’s really been a journey.”

Robach was spotted outside her Manhattan home on Friday.
Robach was spotted outside her Manhattan home on Friday.
William Farrington
Holmes was spotted in New York City on Friday.
Holmes was also spotted in New York City on Friday, juggling two phones.

Robach was equally rhapsodic about her then-husband in response.

“Andrew’s being very selfless there,” Robach said. “He brought so much love and structure and joy and heart to our family as well, and so the two of us made decisions to get on the same page. But it was not easy, and sometimes it still isn’t easy. It’s not that we’ve figured it out. We’re just trying to work together, that’s the whole point.”

Holmes and Robach have reportedly been very friendly since he joined the GMA team in 2014. Robach previously told People that she was thrilled when execs decided to pair them on “GMA 3.”

A picture of TJ Holmes and Amy Robach at The Oscars Previews.
Robach was reportedly thrilled when she was paired up with Holmes on “GMA3.”
ABC via Getty Images

“[They] said, ‘Hey, we want to bring on a co-anchor. What do you think of T.J. Holmes?’ And I almost fell out of my chair,” Robach said.

“My God. You couldn’t have picked a better person to ask me what I thought of, because we’ve been trying to figure out a way to work together for literally the last five years.”

Robach also detailed to People how she and Shue double-dated in the early years with Holmes and Fiebig.

A picture of Robach and Homes during GMA3: What you need to know, recaps the Oscars.
Robach said she and Holmes instantly clicked when he started working for ABC.
ABC via Getty Images

“The moment he started at ABC, I think we just clicked,” she said. “We’ve gone on tons of double dates with our spouses and my daughters babysit his daughters.”

The two couples’ closeness is slightly reminiscent of former CNN head Jeff Zucker’s once-secret affair with his then-colleague Allison Gollust, a 10-year relationship that began while Zucker and his wife and Gollust and her husband lived in the same Manhattan apartment building. It led to their respective divorces as well as their mutual downfall at CNN.

Meanwhile, Mika Brzezinski and her now-husband Joe Scarborough, the co-anchors of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” reportedly began an affair while they were both married to others but somehow escaped scandal.

A picture of Amy Robach and TJ Holmes at the 2022 ABC Disney Upfront at Basketball City.
“I don’t need pickup lines,” Holmes once said on the air.
Getty Images,

“Everyone knew, I mean everyone,” a former NBC News staffer said of Brzezinski and Scarborough’s initially illicit romance. “But somehow it never turned into an issue.”‘

Robach has experience weathering storms both on and off camera. Born in Michigan and raised in Georgia, Robach began working at a local station in Charleston, SC and moved to WTTG in Washington before methodically moving up the ladder of cable and network news. A stint at MSNBC in 2003 led to the “Weekend Today” anchor job at NBC News. She left for “Good Morning America” in 2012.

A moving truck was spotted outside Robach's Manhattan home on Friday.
A moving truck was spotted outside Robach’s Manhattan home on Friday.
William Farrington

In 2019 she was caught in a hot mic moment when complaining about how ABC allegedly “quashed” her exclusive coverage of the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal before it exploded years later.

In 2013, she found out she had Stage 2 cancer in both breasts and lymph nodes. She underwent a double mastectomy and said at the time that doctors had caught the cancer.

Robach said last year that she credited a keto diet and intermittent fasting with maintaining her health. Her lookalike mother, Joanie, has a blog devoted to keto recipes called MyKetoHome that were inspired by her daughter’s illness.

In 2019 Robach complained about how ABC allegedly “quashed” her exclusive coverage of the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal.
In 2019 Robach complained about how ABC allegedly “quashed” her exclusive coverage of the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal.
Getty Images for Breast Cancer Research Foundation

As for her current paramour, Holmes, he has always sounded confident to tough out any scandal.

If his affair with Robach doesn’t work out, he probably won’t worry about finding someone new.

When his “GMA” co-host Sara Haines asked him in 2015 about what he uses for pickup lines, Holmes looked momentarily puzzled.

“I don’t need pickup lines, are you kidding me?” he said. “I say … ‘Hi.’ That’s my line.”

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