Lima News, June 11, 2009
A thing of the past becomes unearthed


ST. MARYS - Imagine you're 18 years old, about to graduate high school, and you're celebrating graduation with all your friends at a lake party.

Now imagine your class ring, which your sweat and hard work has earned you, slips off your finger while swimming.

It sinks to the bottom of the murky water to hibernate for the next 58 years. You are heartbroken.

Enter Colleen Bradley, a 46-year-old St. Marys woman. She's been an avid member of the Black Swamp Metal Detecting Club for six years. She does permited-hunting through Grand Lake often with her underwater metal detector, looking not for jewels and treasures, but for trash polluting the lake.

Bradley said she usually finds cans, coins, and batteries but on May 31 she found something near and dear to Nancy Carter, a 1951 graduate of Shawnee High School, who lives in Commerce Township, Mich.

"I had just found a can and a chain  and was about to walk away when my detector made a loud noise," Bradley said. "I dug down 12 inches and found a ring."

Bradley said it was a 1951 class ring from Shawnee. Beneath the black residue from the lake were the initials N.G., but no other engravings.

After using a jewelry wipe to clean it, Bradley said it looks brand new again.

In steps Joanie Moore, a secretary at Shawnee High School, who helped put Bradley in contact with Carter.

"It was such a touching story and we need more of those," Moore said.

Shawnee High School receives a lot of class rings that are found around the area, but this ring was the oldest to be found.

Bradley said if it weren't for the help of the secretaries at Shawnee's High School and Middle School she wouldn't have found Carter.

Carter, whose maiden name is Goodenough, said she was amazed when Bradley called her and never thought she'd see the ring again.

"It's a blessing to get to know someone of Colleen's caliber," Carter said. "She doesn't want a reward and that's a rare quality."

Carter said when she was 18 she started saving up to buy a class ring. She did baby-sitting and worked part-time at Newberry's Ten Cent Store, which used to be on Main Street.

Carter said a friend of hers designed the ring, which made it extra special to her.

"I was devastated after it was gone," Carter said. "We searched to no avail and my friends were able to save money to get a replacement. It was the same design, but it never felt the same."

Carter, now 76, said her high school experience was an exceptional one. After 58 years, she still stays in close contact with a large number of classmates. Carter even married her high school sweetheart in the fall of 1952.

The remaining members of her high school class meet every September in Lima for a Kewpee hamburger, golfing and a nice dinner.

Bradley said once she shows the ring to her metal-detecting club mates Wednesday, it will be mailed to Carter.

Carter said she has two daughers, and for a long time struggled with which daughter to give her class ring. She is relieved that now she doesn't have to worry about that.

Bradley and the Carters plan to dine at Kewpee Hamburgers when they finally meet in September.

Bradley said this was the fourth class ring she has found and returned to the owner.

"I just love mysteries, it's like playing detective," Bradley said.