The emotional reunions of alumni who are reunited with lost—and found—class rings prove that a love for Auburn can never be tarnished

When someone finds an Auburn University class ring and reaches out to the university for help locating the owner, regardless of which department at Auburn they contact, the communication eventually makes it to me in the Auburn Alumni Association. Using the inscription information engraved inside the ring band, I search the association’s database to narrow down and then pinpoint the graduate. 

When contacted, most remember exactly when, where and how their rings were lost; most have also resigned themselves to the fact they would never see them again. Over the past 13 years, I have had the honor of reuniting numerous rings with those who lost them and it is one of my favorite things I do in my job. These are some of my most memorable stories of those reunions.

Circle of Life

Lost 2018 – Found 2018

I was walking out of my office when my desk phone rang. I almost didn’t go back to answer it, but something made me turn around. 

At first, there was just silence. Then, a trembling, crackling voice asked me to hold on, followed by a woman’s voice telling me her husband was so emotional he needed to regain his composure. I gladly waited. 

I had left a message for Harry Dale ’54 earlier that morning letting him know someone had found his 1954 API class ring and wanted to return it to him. 

When Dale could speak, he said he couldn’t believe the ring had been found. He told me he had proudly worn his API ring every day since he graduated in May of 1954. That is, until the day before, when it slipped off his finger while he was running errands with his wife in Albany, Ga. He had no idea where it had fallen off and was certain he would never see it again. 

“I think his class ring came to be a very real tie to Auburn and all those good memories.”

A tavern owner in Albany found the ring in the parking lot of a store where the Dales had shopped. He took a photo and posted it on Facebook. That post was forwarded to my inbox and I reached out to the poster asking for the name or initials inscribed inside the band. With that information and the university database, I was able to identify the owner within minutes. 

“Like so many of us, Dad considered his years here at Auburn to be among the best of his life,” Harry’s son, Richard Dale ’92, said. “He treasured all the good times and the many long-term friendships that resulted from his time at Auburn. I think his class ring came to be a very real tie to Auburn and all those good memories. He always took very special care of it, but in his later years, he started to lose weight and I don’t think he realized how much his finger size had changed. When he lost the ring, he felt like he’d lost that special link to Auburn and to those friends and memories. When it was returned, quite unexpectedly, he really felt like it was a gift to get it back and he was very grateful to everyone involved in that entire process.”

Harry Dale died in March 2021 and Richard now has his father’s ring, along with his own.

“I am now very thankful as well to everyone who was involved in finding and returning the ring to my dad and our family because now it will carry memories for me of all the times that I saw my dad wearing it as well as his love
for everything Auburn,” Richard said.

Nut Bin

Lost 2017 – Found 2017

I contacted Don J. Harmon ’66 and asked him if he had recently lost his Auburn class ring. His reply: “Yes, I did. I am pretty sure I lost it in the nut bin at the Walmart in the Valley.”

Island Ring

Lost 2015 – Found 2015

In 2015, an email was sent to me from Thomas Farris ’60, who had lost his ring in Hilton Head, S.C., just weeks before. 

“When we returned from vacation in Hilton Head, I realized I didn’t have my ring,” Farris said. “I called the place we stayed in Georgia before going to Hilton Head and then called the rental place on the island, the local newspaper and even the lifeguard stand. Nobody had seen it.”

Remarkably, within a few hours of Farris’s email coming in, I got another email from a lady who had found a ring in a dresser drawer in Hilton Head. It was Farris’s ring.

“My ring is a 1960 ring, the year API became Auburn, so it holds a special significance to me for that reason, too,” Farris said. “I was so happy to get it back.” 

This was, by far, the fastest ring reunion I’ve ever been a part of, but nonetheless, Farris was as grateful as those who lost their rings years earlier.

On Track

Lost 1980 – Found 2016

A dresser purchased at a thrift store in Newnan, Ga. had an Auburn ring wedged in the track of the top drawer.  The ring’s owner, who had recently moved to assisted living, thought it had been stolen during a burglary years earlier and was sure it was long gone. It was returned to him on his 80th birthday.

The Traveling Ring

Lost 2018 – Found 2020

There was the story of the United States Navy veteran who purchased a suitcase at a thrift store in Hixon, Tenn. and found a necklace, a gold ring and a ladies Auburn dinner ring in one of the side pockets. Her Facebook post was forwarded to the alumni association Facebook inbox, but because the inscription inside the ring only had the name “Michaela,” the odds of finding the rightful owner were greatly reduced. With the help of Auburn Balfour representative Pearson Alsobrook ’07, we gathered more details and Alsobrook was able to narrow it down to the rightful owner. The Navy veteran didn’t want to mail the jewelry, so she personally delivered it to North Alabama, four hours from her home in Hixon. What made this story even sweeter was that the other ring found in the suitcase had great sentimental value to Michaela; her father had given it to her just before he passed away and as excited as she was to get her AU class ring back, she was just as emotional about having the gift from her father returned.

A Thoughtful Gold Buyer

Lost 1975 – Found 2020

Debbie Eastis King ’86 sent an email to me asking for help in locating the owner of a ring she found in her grandfather’s belongings. 

“My grandfather bought and sold gold for a living, but he would never sell or melt a class ring because he felt like, at some point, the graduate would want it back,” King said. “He gave the box of rings to my mother who was really into genealogy, in hopes that she could find the owners. But that was years ago, long before we had so much technology to find people.” 

In 2020, a man contacted King’s parents. They had found the class ring her father had lost 45 years earlier while serving at Fairfield Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash.

“Seeing how excited and proud my dad was to get his college ring back reminded my mom about the rings my grandfather had saved. She got them out and we started looking for the owners.”

One of those owners was John Chaffin ’65. King contacted Chaffin and returned the ring to a very grateful graduate. 

“Funny thing is, Mr. Chaffin lost his ring 45 years ago, too,” King said. “Such a crazy coincidence!”  

A Veteran Gets His Prized “Metal”

Lost 2006 – Found 2021

For more than 15 years, a class ring had been passed around the alumni center and several staff members tried to make out the inscription so the owner could be located. At some point, it was given to me and over the past few years, I searched for information on the owner to no avail. I called one prospect several years ago, but it wasn’t his, so I put the ring back in the drawer and kind of forgot about it–out of sight, out of mind. When I began working on this story, I remembered that ring, dug it out of the drawer and, once again, set out to find the owner, but with more urgency and determination. With the help of Pearson Alsobrook at Balfour, I was able to get a definite name from the inscription. From there, I narrowed my list of possibilities to one: Jackie Earl Forbus ’71. I called the number in the database and got a voicemail, so I left a message. I sent an email. I searched his name online and called every number associated with Forbus, leaving voice messages and sending text messages in hopes that one of them would be his. This time, unlike numerous attempts over the years, my diligence paid off. One afternoon in late June, Jack Forbus of Lineville, Ala. returned my call.  

“When [my ring] was stolen, I honestly never thought I’d see it again, so this has all been such a blessing.”

“I thought the first call from you was spam and then you sent an email, so I finally called you back,” Forbus said. “I remember you told me you had my class ring and I remember saying, ‘If it is my ring,’…and before I could even finish, you jumped in and said, ‘Oh, it is your ring. I’m sure of that.’ It’s still hard for me to believe. It just seems so unreal to me that I am getting my ring back after all these years.”

I offered to mail the ring to Forbus, but he insisted on coming to the Plains to retrieve it, so we set up a time to meet. Alsobrook joined us, delivering a freshly cleaned ring in a new wooden Balfour box. It was emotional. All these years later, Forbus had the ring back that meant so much to him. 

“I remember getting my ring in 1969. I was thrilled to get it as I know so many other are, too, and I wore it for many years. When it was stolen, I honestly never thought I’d see it again, so this has all been such a blessing.”

Sharon Forbus, Jack’s wife of 45 years, said Jack had been so excited after the phone call. She said everybody he knows has heard his great news. 

“It has truly been one of the highlights of his life.”

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