Constable: Story of lost class ring becomes a reminder of two more lost rings
People who know Dodie Shields of Arlington Heights thought my column last week about the return of a long lost high school class ring was about her.
After all, Shields recently tracked down a woman who lost her class ring, just as the organizer of a Fremd High School alumni page on Facebook did in my column. But it took considerably more legwork for Shields, who is 85 years old and a bit of a sleuth.
"In 2008, while working in our yard, we unearthed a 1983 RMHS girls class ring," Shields says, noting the inner band was engraved with the student's first and last initials. "I thought, 'Oh, this will be easy to find the owner, I'll just check the yearbooks.'"
Her son, Matthew, graduated in 1983 from Rolling Meadows High School, but his 1983 yearbook was destroyed in a flood. So she contacted her son, Steve, who graduated in 1981. He searched his yearbook and sent his mom the names of five sophomore girls with the same initials as on the ring. She found some phone numbers.
"I first tried calling them under their maiden names -- no luck," she says. "Then I went to the courthouse in Rolling Meadows to see if perhaps I could get married names."
She got three names, called them, but didn't find the owner. She went to the high school. She called Jostens, the ring-maker.
"Being a nurse, you just want to do things for other people," says Shields, a registered nurse who retired after 25 years at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights. "I had to give up but never gave up hope."
Last month, "on a lark," Shields posted the information on an app called Nextdoor. Twenty minutes later, she was on her way to finding the ring's owner, Debbi Gilles, who lives in Arlington Heights.
"I was freaking out for 45 minutes. I never expected to get it back," says Gilles. "It has a ruby stone, so when I wear something with those colors, I wear the ring, making up for lost time."
While Gilles blames the loss on an old boyfriend and doesn't remember the night it disappeared, Shields figured it out.
"I know when it was lost. It was while we were on vacation and one of the few times we left the boys home alone, and they had a party," remembers Shields, who says she figured that out when she questioned her sons because her favorite paring knife apparently got tossed in the garbage during that same party and the boys confessed.
"She (Shields) has a bit of the 'Columbo' mindset," says Joan Wegrzyn, 70, a similar sleuth from Wheaton, who shares the investigative instincts of the old TV detective played by Peter Falk. Wegrzyn, 70, says last week's column inspired her to tackle her own mystery of a class ring she's had for a decade or two.
"I found it outside somewhere, but I don't know where. I have had this ring in my desk for a long time," says Wegrzyn.
Making her living as a researcher, often recruiting executives for big companies, Wegrzyn focused her attention on the 1969 Bogan High School class ring. She found the Class of 1969 Facebook page, got the name of a woman organizing the 50th reunion this past weekend, tracked down the woman's husband, found a phone number and eventually figured out a way to get the ring to the reunion.
All that is missing is a reunion. "Not every story has a happy ending," Wegrzyn notes. The apparent owner died more than a decade ago, and Wegrzyn's research didn't turn up any loved ones who would be thrilled to get the ring, which now is in the possession of another class member. But the adventure was not a total loss.
"It was like going to confession," says Wegrzyn, absolving herself of the venial sin of failing to track down the owner of a ring lingering in her junk drawer. "I got it out of my house."
The only thing better than getting your old high school ring back might be getting rid of an old high school ring you never wanted in the first place.