An AP Member Exchange shared by Tulsa World
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — A package was delivered to Vera Freeman that brought back long-forgotten memories.
“There was a note on the inside that said ‘I hope this makes you smile,'” Freeman said. “It did. It really did.”
More than 60 years after she lost her 1953 Chilocco Indian Agricultural School class ring, it was found and returned, Tulsa World (http://bit.ly/2fAEyPJ ) reports.
Kimberly Griffin of Flower Mound, Texas, found the ring while using a metal detector on the dry bed of Lake Lewisville, near her home, during the drought of 2014.
“For some reason, I just felt like I had to try to find this person or find a relative,” Griffin said. “I felt driven to do whatever I could to find this person.”
It took some detective work, but Griffin’s efforts eventually led her to Freeman, a retired schoolteacher.
“It’s such an unbelievable story,” said Freeman. “I was so stunned when she called me and told me she thought she had found my ring. It was such a wonderful thing for a person to do.
“I remember it cost $18 in 1953. You know that was a lot of money back then. It wasn’t easy for my father to come up with the money. So I was really sad when I lost it. But it was so long ago I had kind of forgotten about it.
“What a wonderful surprise this has been. What a wonderful thing this woman did for me.”
Griffin was simply working at her hobby, using the metal detector, when she located the ring. That was two years ago.
“I started looking immediately, but I had a few things come up,” said Griffin. “I had breast cancer. I had some family things. So, after dealing with a couple of issues, I started looking again this year.”
Freeman doesn’t remember exactly when she lost the ring — 1954 or 1955 — but she does remember where she last saw it.
She was working for the phone company in Tulsa when she went to wash her hands. She set the ring on the counter. She forgot about it and went back to work.
A little while later, she realized her ring wasn’t on her finger, so she went back to the washroom.
The ring was gone.
“I’ve always been a little sad that I lost that ring,” said Freeman. “I just figured it was gone. There was nothing I could do about it.”
Where the ring has been for 60 years, and how it landed in a north Texas lake, is anyone’s guess.
Freeman and her husband, Patrick, a retired United Methodist minister, retired to Tahlequah about 17 years ago. They have been married 59 years and have three grown children.
She had grown up in Tahlequah before deciding to join her older sister, who was already at Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, for her high school years.
Chilocco, 20 miles north of Ponca City, operated for nearly 90 years before it was closed in 1980.
Freeman proudly shows off her class ring, now hanging from a necklace, for everyone to see.
It says “Chilocco” and “1953” on the ring. On the inside, barely visible, are her initials: VMG, for Vera Marie Gourd.
So, with a little detective work, Griffin was able to find a copy of the Chilocco yearbook and located a Vera Marie Gourd in the class of 1953. That led her to several Facebook pages of Chilocco alumni, and then to the alumni group in Tahlequah.
That led her to Vera Marie Gourd, who was now Vera Marie Freeman, living near Tahlequah.
“It was a neat journey,” said a tearful Griffin. “I’m so happy I could find her. All I wanted to do was find this person and return her ring.
“I’ll never forget how excited she was when I called her on the phone and told her I believe I had her class ring. I’m so happy I could do something that brought her such joy.”
Freeman almost missed the call.
“I saw the number pop up on my phone, and it was a number I didn’t recognize,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone in Irving, Texas. So I tried to hang up.
“Instead, I hit the wrong button and answered the phone. That was another very lucky thing in this story. What happens if I don’t answer?”
A voice on the other end told her of the discovery, and details of the ring’s appearance.
“Once she described it, I knew it had to be it,” said Freeman. “Still, I was skeptical. I just couldn’t believe it.
“So the lady said she was going to FedEx it overnight to me. The next day, I got a package. I opened it, and it was definitely my class ring. There was no doubt about it.”
She has since talked to Griffin.
“Obviously, I sent her a thank-you note, too,” said Freeman. “It is such a nice thing to do. She went to a lot of work to find me and return it to me.
“It really makes you feel good about people. There are a lot of good people out there.”
Griffin said she was really touched by the thank-you note.
“I didn’t want anything from her,” said Griffin. “I just wanted her to have something that belonged to her. I was just doing what was right.”
Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com