Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

May 29, 2013

Long time gone: Missing ring turns up, providing a Jacksonville police officer with a crucial link to his high school years

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville Police Detective Jeremy Pate never thought he'd see his high school class ring again.

The 30-year-old, part of Jacksonville High School's “Class of 2001,” lost this particular school heirloom at age 19, a good 11 years ago.

As far as rings go, it was a beaut, to be sure: silver with a blue stone stylized in the Jacksonville Indian manner. Engraved on the outside was his football position, “left tackle,” as well as the number under which he played for the JHS Indians, “79.”  Also engraved on the ring were his last name and the year he graduated.

Pate thought he lost the ring while swimming at Jacksonville Lake.

But it turns out that probably wasn't true. Because recently — and in Pate's mind almost impossibly — this long-lost ring somehow was discovered in the parking lot of a Tyler floral shop. After over a decade of being missing.

Pate said he has no idea how the ring could possibly have made its way to Tyler.

“I have never been to that business,” he said. “They somehow found it in their parking lot. They waited until the following Monday and called Jacksonville High School. They then notified the school, which gave me a call.”

A counselor who remembered Pate from his days at Jacksonville High School was the one who notified him of the ring's recovery.

This development, puzzling for Pate, was equally strange for the floral shop clerks in whose parking lot the ring was discovered.

Rebecca Fuller, a clerk at Flowers by LouAnn, said a passerby recently noticed it and brought it in to the store.

“He found it on the ground, right out of our front door,” Fuller said. “I thought it was strange, too. LouAnn, the owner of the store is the one who did all the calling to get the ring back to its owner.”

Pate said his ring didn't seem to be damaged after all this time. As a matter of fact, he's back to wearing it to work every day.

Apparently, Pate has lost mass since he was 19. He has to wear it now on the middle finger of his right hand instead of the original, right ring finger.

“It's in great shape,” Pate said. “The stone hasn't even been scratched. But I know it hasn't been sitting in a parking lot for 11 years.”

In 2001, Pate graduated and went to Trinity Valley College in Athens where he played football for a year. Then he came back, attended some local college classes and enrolled in the police academy, starting his career in law enforcement.

Believe it or not, 11 years is not the longest amount of time on record for someone losing a class ring then somehow recovering it.

In 2007, a man who lost his class ring swimming in the Pacific Ocean had it recovered 20 years later.

Philadelphia resident James Costantini lost his 1984 class ring from William Tenant High School swimming off the coast of Hawaii while on vacation with his family when he was 18 - more than 20 years prior, the Associated Press reported.

A California man found it a year later while snorkeling off Maui and kept it as a souvenir. Later he decided to track down the owner and found his way to Costantini.   

This kind of loss is becoming so common, there's even a special website or two to help track down missing rings. For instance, there's www.classringfinder.com.

Back in Jacksonville, the police detective — who now has  a 5-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old son — continues to wonder where the ring has been all these years.

“Did someone take it and then drop it again?” Pate said. “I'll probably never know. But 11 years is a long time to lose something and get it back. This is something I honestly thought would be lost forever. But I'm excited to get it and now I can pass it on to my kids.