HURST -- A huge surprise awaited Gary Wade of Herrin on March 5.
Chris Homoya presented him with his high school class ring, an item Wade was sure he would never see again.
"It's only been about 57 years. This is quite a surprise," Wade said about getting his Herrin High School ring back. He bought in fall 1955, a few months before he graduated in the spring.
Wade lost the ring that summer horsing around with his friends in a Williamson County swimming hole.
"There was a pier we dove off. A group of us were playing king of the mountain. Someone pulled my hand and the ring came off into six feet of water," Wade said.
He and his friends searched in the murky water for hours, but the ring didn't turn up.
"I knew I never would see it again. The topic of its missing would come up every few years with my wife," Wade said.
Homoya made his first metal detector 25 years ago and since has become an authorized dealer. He was wadding in water at the old swimming hole when his detector's alarm sounded.
He scooped up some lake bottom, sifted through it and found the ring.
The ring landed on rocks about 40 to 50 feet from the shore line and remained there through the years. If it had landed on surface clay, it likely would have sunk a few more feet, Homoya said.
Homoya contacted Herrin High School and gave them information including initials on the ring.
"I was the only GW in the 1956 yearbook," Wade said.
Homoya contacted Wade's wife Diana on March 4 with information about his find. She relayed word to her husband who was at a SIU softball game.
"I couldn't believe what was happening. After 57 years, you give up," said Wade.
He and Homoya struck up an instantaneous friendship when they met March 5. They are going to get together again.
Meanwhile, Homoya continues his hobby, finding all kinds of relics from the past including lots of rings like Wade's. In particular, he found a 10-karat gold Carterville High School ring dating back to 1929.
Oddly enough, at the same swimming hole he found Wade's ring, he has since found a 1956 Marion High School ring belonging to a woman he is attempting to track down.
"It was a popular place. During the summer, there were hundreds of people there every day," Wade said about the spot.