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Almost anything can show up in an Oak Park backyard after a "weather event," including small "archaeological" finds that bubble up from the primordial mud.
So last Saturday after the latest deluge in the Oak Park area, Kevin and I were in our backyard spilling out bag after bag of compost and soil into our new raised garden bed.
When all the soil was in its container, Kevin spotted something a couple of feet away, round and shiny, sitting in the grass — a men's 1970 Baylor University class ring, to be precise, the gold and a smallish diamond setting still gleaming and intact. Inside the circle were engraved the initials, SCS.
"My first reaction was, why is my class ring out in the yard?" said Kevin, a cameraman and editor at ABC News. "When I picked it up, I knew it wasn't mine."
He went inside and online to search a lost-class-rings site, but "they wanted me to register with too much personal information, so I bagged it," he said.
Last Friday, as he perused a Wednesday Journal news update, he spotted a report on a robbery that took place on the 600 block of South Lyman, involving two con men victimizing a 65-year-old man, just five blocks north from where we have lived for the last 28 years. The robbery included $15,000 in jewels, rings and credit cards.
That got him thinking because the victim's age was in line with someone who would have graduated from college in 1970.
"I thought, since they were on Lyman, the thieves probably continued down our alley and when they figured the class ring was worthless, they tossed it out the window, over the garage and into our backyard," Kevin deduced, "so thinking I had evidence from the crime, I called the police."
Five minutes later, Officer John Duggan from the Oak Park Police Department arrived. After a quick briefing, I handed over the ring to him, with my spouse absolutely sure the mystery was solved.
Within 10 minutes, though, Officer Duggan informed me the ring was not part of that investigation.
Annoyed that Kevin had let go of the ring, I told the officer that I wanted it back so we could find its owner. He said that now it was police property, and if it was not claimed, he speculated that SCS's ring would probably be sold at a future police auction or melted down.
When I continued to convey my dismay at not being able to return the ring to its rightful owner, Officer Duggan, on his own time, made a few calls for me.
The first one was to Baylor University where he discovered the ring's owner was Stephen C. Skidmore, 64. The last known address was in St. Charles, but with further investigation, he found the email and phone number of a man with that name who was living in Oregon.
Officer Duggan also discovered that it was, indeed, Mr. Skidmore's class ring, and that he and his young family had lived in our house from 1978 to 1981.
At the time, Skidmore was a librarian at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and he had developed the habit of removing his class ring when he washed his hands. He thought he must have lost it at work.
In retrospect, upon learning where it was found, he now speculates otherwise.
"The only thing I can think of was that I was working in the yard, and I put it on the fencepost," says Skidmore, now a library director in Florence, Oregon.
So it's true: Keepsakes that have been underground for 30 years can resurface and go home — with a little help from the community in which it was lost.
"I had purchased another ring, but this one means more to me. Just the story means a lot," said Skidmore.
"Now I have gotten to the point that I don't take my ring off at all."