Bonner Springs Herby Morris will have arguably the most interesting piece of memorabilia to show off at his upcoming 45-year high school class reunion.
Though Morris lives here, his 1966 Bonner Springs High School class ring hasn’t been in Bonner since about a year after he received it. Since then, it has made an interesting journey until he got it back last week — possibly spending several years in the ground two states away before it was rediscovered by a man who would hold onto it for the next 35 years, just in case the owner was found.
The ring made its way back to Morris through a coincidental set of circumstances, thanks to the help of some Bonner Springs residents.
“It’s been 43 years since I’ve seen this,” Morris said after receiving the ring in the mail Thursday. “This ring is in perfect shape. I don’t know how it survived in the ground for nine years until he found it.”
Lost and found
Until last week, Morris never expected to see the ring again; he thought his ring had disappeared down a drainpipe.
Morris’ uncle, Ralph Morris, owned a cottage in Cary, Ill., and after Morris graduated from high school, he drove a 1965 Cushman motorcycle there for his uncle. He then lived in the cottage for a year while he worked in the area, and it was during that year he lost the ring.
He said he remembered realizing the ring was no longer on his hand shortly after taking a shower one day. He eventually gave up any hope of finding it.
“I thought I lost the ring down the shower drain,” he said.
Then, about a month ago, Jay Smith of Bonner Springs, a 1976 BSHS graduate, found a post for a lost ring on the Internet.
Smith was interested in finding some high school memories and started searching for his high school yearbook online. His search brought him to the BSHS page at alumniclass.com, where he scrolled down and saw a box with the heading “Lost Class Rings,” where people could post both rings lost and rings found. Smith himself had lost his class ring, so he clicked on the “found” link. There were only two postings — one for a 1958 ring and one for 1966, and the latter caught Smith’s attention.
“I`ve been caring for this thing like it was my own for a long time; it’s in mint condition,” the post read, going on to explain the initials H.M. were on the ring. “I hope someone can look up this man’s telephone number and let him know. I feel that God is the only one who knows who this man is right now.”
In the ground
Years after Morris lost the ring, in 1976, 14-year-old Craig Schwartz was helping his dad level some ground near their new garage on land his father had bought from their neighbor, Morris’ uncle Ralph.
Schwartz got the chance to learn how to operate the tractor his father had brought in for the job, making it move some earth around. Once when he was done, he remembers getting out and kicking some of the dirt clumps that remained.
“The ring popped out of the ground, and I thought, ‘What is this?’” Schwartz remembers.
He nearly threw it back to the ground before he cleared off the dirt and realized it was a large class ring. He took interest in the image of the Brave on top of a red stone, with the initials H and M on either side. He decided to keep it — and he kept it for the next 35 years, even as he moved elsewhere.
“It traveled everywhere with me,” Schwartz said. “Finally, I looked at it and said, ‘This belonged to somebody.’”
So in about 2000, with the advent of the Internet making information much more accessible, he searched and discovered there was only one Bonner Springs High School in the country. He said he called the school, but at the time, the staff was wary of the Illinois man seeking a roster for the class of 1966.
“They weren’t obligated to let me know all that information,” Schwartz said.
So he pushed his search for the owner to the backburner for a few years, finally posting a message for the missing class ring in 2009 at alumniclass.com.
Two years later, Smith saw that message and took it upon himself to find the ring’s owner.
“I’ve lived here my whole life,” Smith said. “My mom and dad drove buses for the school district, so I figured chances are, I’m going to know this person.”
With the help of Debbie Maddy, BSHS librarian, Smith looked through a 1966 yearbook and discovered only two H.M.’s in the class. One was a guy who was slender and shorter of stature, while the other was Morris, who happened to be a friend of Smith’s older brother. Smith knew Morris was a taller man who would need the bigger-sized ring described.
A reward better than gold
Smith made the phone calls to bring the two men together. Morris was able to accurately describe the red stone of the ring for Schwartz, and soon they discovered the Cary, Ill., connection.
They aren’t sure if Morris simply lost the ring while working in the yard or if it really did go down the shower drain. But the cottage’s septic tank had been removed some time before the ring was found, so it’s possible the ring was lodged in the pipes, fell out when the tank was removed and remained buried until Schwartz accidentally unearthed it.
Schwartz said when he has shared the story with people, most are surprised he held on to the ring for so long and didn’t sell it for the gold it contained, which might have brought him about $1,000 with the recent gold values.
“I just said ‘You know, it’s not mine,’” Schwartz said. “It had somebody else’s initials on it … And I got more enjoyment through finding the owner than if I’d turned it in for $1,000. It was a really nice feeling. You can’t buy that kind of gratefulness.”