Retired coal miner Charles Krouse of Robinson, Pa., could barely contain his emotions as he slipped his United High School Class of 1964 ring back on his finger for the first time in 31 years. The 70-year-old had misplaced the onyx and gold ring during a shopping trip in 1981 and lost hope of ever seeing it again.
The ring had held a special place in Krouse's heart because of the great memories it represented and how hard he worked to obtain it. “It was a big deal for me back then,” he told TribLive.com. “It cost $38 and it took me a year to pay for it.” Krouse's family couldn't afford to buy the ring for him, so the high school student worked part-time at a local bowling alley to scrabble together enough money to make the purchase.
Krouse, who struggles with serious health issues and must undergo dialysis three times a week, remembered that he lost the ring in 1981 while shopping for men's shirts at a local variety store. Fortunately for Krouse, a then-teenage Kelly White had found the ring the same day while arranging clothes at that store. “I turned it into their lost-and-found, but after 30 days, when no one claimed it, they gave it back to me,” she told TribLive.com. “I’ve had it since 1981. I always intended to give it back.”
For more than 30 years, White held onto the ring, hoping that she could eventually find the rightful owner. White had moved to Phoenix, Ariz., with her husband, but on a recent trip back to Pennsylvania she decided to use the Internet to solve the mystery once and for all.
Working with a few clues, such as the word "United" on the front of the ring, the graduation year and initials inside the band, White enlisted the help of United High School's acting principle, Patricia Berezansky. White emailed a photo of the ring to Berezansky, who confirmed it was, in fact, a school ring from her district.
The initials engraved in the ring were “C.A.K.” When Berezansky was able to confirm that Krouse's middle name was Albert, she knew the mystery was nearly solved. When she called Krouse to question him about a possible missing ring, he was able to “describe it to a ‘T,’” she said.
“Good stories like this need to be celebrated,” said the acting principal. “It’s a mini miracle.”
Krouse told TribLive.com that he feels lucky to be alive and that he sees the return of his ring — something he’d never thought possible — as a positive sign. “It’s so hard to believe,” he said.