High school class ring makes unlikely journey home

| 22 Feb 2012 | 07:47

    Woman loses and finds class memento twice McALESTER, Okla. (AP) — They say three’s a charm. The adage rings true for Bessie Ott. The McAlester, Okla., hospital clerk was recently reunited with her class ring, a ring she’s lost twice over the last 30 years. She slipped it on her finger for the third time this month, just in time for Christmas. Ott said the ring was found three years ago in California — a state she’s never visited — by a man who dug it out of a crack in the cement of a busy intersection. It was a pretty big deal the first time the Cement High School basketball and volleyball superstar lost her class ring. It was a bit too big when she slipped it on her finger, and she’d only had it a week when it went missing. Her parents agreed to buy her a new one, and this time, her ring fit much better. “And I never took it off,” Ott said. That ring represented glory days on the hardwood. Ott, she was Smith then, says she still holds her school’s records in basketball and has all her newspaper clippings and even score sheets from her basketball and volleyball games. But a knee injury sidelined her athletic career. So she closed the scrapbook on that part of her life. But her class ring remained a cherished memento. It also symbolized a sacrifice made by her parents. “I know that my Mom and Dad couldn’t afford ...” Ott said, her voice breaking with emotion. “I knew that my parents didn’t really have that kind of money to spend.” She came from a big family, she explained, one of seven “stair-stepper” children and even two aunts who lived with them while they finished high school. But still, her parents cheered her on in the school gymnasium and scrimped and saved to buy her a class ring. Twice. “They sacrificed for something so expensive,” Ott said. “And when I got my second ring I never took it off.” She was determined this time, and the ring stayed on her finger for the better part of 15 years. Then, a college class had her digging in the dirt. “I was in college down at Eastern and I was in a soils class and we had to take our rings off,” she said, and that’s the last time she saw it. “I never should have taken it off.” She didn’t tell her parents this time, and she had given up hope of ever owning a class ring again. So she was shocked when her mother called her earlier this month. “She says ‘Bessie Mae, did you lose your class ring?’’’ Ott’s mother still lives in Cement — that’s a small town in western Oklahoma, southwest of Chickasha — and a high school employee had called about a class ring that was found. A man named Ted Stanfield had found a ring in Bakersfield, Calif., and tracked down the school. He was hoping they could help him find the owner based on three initials inscribed inside: BMS. Well, there was only one person in that 1981 class with those initials. Bessie Mae Smith. “He said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but I walk a lot. And I had walked by it several times and seen something. But one day I just decided I was going to dig that out of there and see what it was,’’’ Ott recounted. He’d actually found the ring three years ago, and posted it with an online lost and found service for class rings. He told Ott it sat in a jar until he and his wife came across it again several weeks ago. Two days later, he was mailing Ott’s ring back to her. “And it’s in perfect condition,” Ott said. She’s delighted to have her ring back. “I told him on the phone, after I got through crying, I said, ‘This is probably one of the best Christmas presents I ... I mean I just never thought I would ever see it again.” “I’m just very, very thankful to get it back.’’ She’s certainly curious about how the ring ended up in California, since she’s never been west of Oklahoma. She also is curious about the fit. When she slipped it on her finger this time, it was a bit big. So she wonders if it’s the first ring she lost, or the second. But either way, she’s determined not to lose it again. “I’ll never take it off,” she said.