Eau Claire (Wisconsin): Laura Durham of Belvidere, Illinois, is thrilled to have her high school class ring back more than 20 years after she lost it and several other rings in a car crash.
She got it back recently thanks to the efforts of workers at D&S Manufacturing, a metal products and equipment company in Black River Falls.
"I can't describe the feeling of getting the rings back," Durham said in an e-mail to the Leader-Telegram newspaper of Eau Claire. "I know that they were only worth something to me, but to me, it was like turning back the hands of time."
Durham, who was then 17 and named Laura Pyrcioch, had taken off the class ring and five others, secured them to a watch band and put them in her car, which she drove as she headed to work at an Illinois horse farm in July 1984.
The car left the road, rolled over several times, and she fractured her skull, collarbone and pelvis.
Bob Windsor, who now is a welder at D&S Manufacturing, worked at the salvage yard in South Beloit, Ill., where her car was taken and found the rings while cleaning out the vehicle.
He added them to his coin collection. His mother encouraged him to try to find the owner but he said he didn't get around to it until a co-worker helped.
That took place after Windsor stopped to see a man in August who was in Black River Falls to buy gold and silver.
He did not want to leave his coin collection in the car while he worked the second shift, so he asked Sherrie Hein, the company human resources manager, if he could keep it in her office.
Windsor showed her his collection, and the class ring caught her eye. It had Durham's maiden name engraved inside, along with the name of Mather High School in Chicago and the fact that she had graduated in 1984.
"I asked him if I could help (him find the ring's owner), and he agreed," she said in an e-mail to the Leader-Telegram. "Puzzles intrigue me, and I love to help people."
Hein, with help from her 14-year-old, Internet-savvy daughter Laura, came up with the name of a possible owner and the names of two others who might have known her through an Internet search. Hein sent letters to all three.
Durham responded. Hein asked Durham to provide the name of her high school, the year she graduated and the color of the stone in her class ring.
She later called Windsor and told him she had found the ring's owner and that Durham had described three other rings she had lost. They then mailed the rings to Durham.
Hein said finding the owner of the class ring was a challenge that she couldn't resist.
"I just kept thinking that there was someone out there who might be missing that ring," she said. "It turned out I was right."