Lost class ring found after 50 years...just in time for a class reunion

Photos by Curt Nettinga/Plainsman Looking very much like the day he purchased it in 1972, Russ Stroud shows off his class ring, recently found after going missing 50 years ago. Below is the metal detector that Eric Graff used to find the ring earlier this month.

Every now and then, the planets align and things just fall into place in the most curious way.

A story, created 50 years ago, reached a happy ending last weekend, when Russ Stroud, Carthage High School class of 1972, wore his class ring to his class’s 50-year reunion.

“I lost my ring while I was in high school,” said Stroud. “I don’t remember specifically losing the ring, I guess. I just remember that it was missing. I figured it would turn up.”

He was right. It did turn up.

Enter Eric Graff, who attended school in Carthage for a short time. He graduated from high school and college in Minnesota and has been with the Lucie County (Florida) School District for the past 35 years, the past several years as the school’s librarian.

“My brother and I both enjoy metal detecting as a hobby,” Graff said. “He comes down here in the winter and I go north to get out of the Florida heat in the summer.” It was that arrangement that had the two of them sweeping areas around Esmund, which was north and a bit west of Carthage. “We learned that much of the property there is privately owned now, so we limited our searches,” he said. Stroud said he didn’t remember spending much time in Esmund. “The school was closed there and about the only time we went was for a funeral or such at the church.”

It was the last day of their most recent trip, Graff said, and they were headed toward Watertown after spending the night in Huron, and he convinced his brother to make one more stop in Esmund. Graff said he quickly got a signal from his detector and he excitedly dug up…a metal lid.

“Like a can lid,” Graff said with a laugh. However, as he said he always does, Graff did a sweep of the area again, as a ‘just-in-case.’ He got another signal and said that the reading made it sound like it was something small. “That’s usually a pop top or a nail or something,” he said. “We find a lot of nails.”

Instead, two inches below where he just dug, he pried a ring from the soil. “It was in amazing shape,” Graff said. “I got it cleaned up and began investigating that night.”

He said the ring had the letters ‘R’ and ’S’ on the sides of the ring, with a larger ‘C’ between them.

Further down on each respective side was ’19’ and  ’72.’ Graff’s guess, from the locale, was that it was likely a Carthage student’s ring and that was the direction he took. He found a group on Facebook and posed a question and got a response from Denise Shrank. “She said ‘I went to school with you and I want to help you find this guy.’ Denise was very instrumental in tracking down Stroud.

When Graff contacted Stroud, he said he told him he might have something that belonged to him. “I asked Russ, ‘When is your birthday?’ and Stroud responded that it was in May.” Graff said that was the clincher, as May’s birthstone is an emerald and the stone in the ring was a deep green.

“It’s all because of Facebook that we connected,” Stroud said. “I don’t spend much time on it, but my niece does and she contacted my older sister and things just took off from there.”

“We got to visiting more and I found out that Russ’s class reunion was this weekend,” Graff said. “I told him that I was going to do everything I could to get it to him so he had if for the reunion.” This conversation took place Aug. 2 and only four days before the reunion.

Graff said he immediately headed to the UPS store and made arrangements to send the ring to Stroud.

During the transaction, he said he retold the story to the UPS store employee, who also thought it was pretty cool.

“Then he said, ‘Next day shipping is going to be about $80,’ which is a lot. A woman from Texas was standing behind me in line and said she would pay for it!” Graff said. “‘That is too great a story to have it come up just short,’” she said.

The story had its conclusion last weekend, when for the first time in 50 years, Stroud wore his ring to his 50th class reunion.

“My classmates thought it was really kind of weird that it was found right before the reunion,” Stroud said. “I had contacted my cousin in Redfield and asked him to send me a picture of what his class right looked like. When he did, it was identical to this one, but just with a different stone in the center.”

Stroud said it is nice to have the ring again, although he doesn’t wear any rings. “I like restoring older vehicles - muscle cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s - and I have heard too many stories about issues when rings get caught.” He said he had purchased a college class ring from his time at USD-Springfield, but never considered replacing his high school ring.

“I really thought it would turn up and then I honestly kind of forgot about it,” Stroud said.

For Graff, he said that finding the ring and returning it makes up for all of the odds and ends that his searching generally turns. “It’s by far the coolest thing that I have ever found, for certain,” Graff said. “I am glad that we were able to get it back to Russ for his reunion.”

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