CONCORD -- For nearly two months, the sign posted in front of Frank and Janet Rossini's house carried a simple request.

"Will the person who took our statues please return them. They were made by our daughter who was killed. They have a special place in our hearts."

On Christmas Eve, the sign was replaced.

"Thank you. You've restored our faith in humanity. God bless you," a new sign read.

A pair of 18-inch gnomes stolen from the Rossinis' front yard -- keepsakes left behind by their daughter, who died two years ago while riding a motorcycle near her Lakeland, Fla., home -- were returned Tuesday, making a Christmas wish come true for the Concord couple.

One of the Gnomes stolen from Frank Rossini’s front yard in Concord and were made by his daughter Carolyn Duff who was killed in a car accident a
One of the Gnomes stolen from Frank Rossini's front yard in Concord and were made by his daughter Carolyn Duff who was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago in Concord, Calif.(Photo Courtesy of Rossini Family)

Carolyn Duff, 54, died in September 2011, leaving behind a husband and three children. The ceramic gnomes, with white beards and colorful clothing, are especially meaningful to her parents as she made them when she was a young girl, at a time when Frank and his first wife were running a ceramics business out of their garage.

Until early November, they were featured in the immaculately manicured front yard of the Olive Drive home that Frank, 85, had custom built in 1957.

The Rossinis have other keepsakes to remind them of Carolyn. Frank built a small memory garden in his backyard which includes an urn that once contained her ashes, and pieces from her lighthouse collection. When a breeze kicks up, chimes Carolyn owned can be heard from the adjacent patio.

On Nov. 2, as Frank was backing his car out of the garage, he called out to Janet to make sure he didn't hit one of the gnomes. That's when the couple noticed they were gone.

At the urging of Carolyn's five surviving siblings, Rossini placed the first sign in the yard.

It didn't move for almost two months.

On Tuesday morning, Carolyn's stepmother said, her husband walked out the front door to grab the morning newspaper.

Frank and Janet Rossini in a memorial garden he created in honor of his late daughter, Carolyn Duff, who died in a motorcycle accident two years ago.  (Jim
Frank and Janet Rossini in a memorial garden he created in honor of his late daughter, Carolyn Duff, who died in a motorcycle accident two years ago. (Jim Stevens/Bay Area News Group)

"He came back in, started reading the paper and looked out the window and said, 'Oh my goodness, it's the gnomes! The gnomes are here!'"

The couple rushed outside where they found them by the sign in front of their home, returned in as good a condition as they were when they were taken.

Shortly afterward, the couple replaced the old sign with a new one.

"The last two years we couldn't celebrate Christmas. We couldn't even be here in the house," Janet said. "But this year, now it's different. It's a happy Christmas."

The gnomes' return has lifted Frank's spirits at a time when the reality of his daughter's passing is "beginning to really take effect."

"It's made a whole new day for me," he said.

His wife added, "I think whoever saw the pictures knew it was time to return them. We just want to say thank you to whoever they are."

Staff writer Gary Peterson contributed to this report. Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.