Have you ever lost something special and thought you'd never see it again? Most of us never do, except for one Eau Claire man whose "lost item" story began 27 year ago.
Like most people, Graydon Pope gets a lot of emails each day. Most are nothing earth shattering, but one a few days ago about knocked Pope off his chair.
"I was scrolling through my email and I came across this guy by the name of Curt Lehman. I thought I don't know a Curt Lehman. This is probably one of those scam artists," Pope said.
Scam or not, Pope was intrigued.
"I pull up this email and it says ‘Were you in Myrtle Beach in 1985?’ I thought a minute. Yeah, I was in Myrtle Beach in 1985."
Pope graduated from Eau Claire High School in 1983, and as a present his mom and dad bought him a class ring. The following year, while on vacation with some buddies at Myrtle Beach, Pope lost it.
"It's something that I was going to keep forever. And then when I lost it I thought Oh boy, I'm never going to see it again."
And Pope said he worried his parents were going to "whip his butt" for losing the $84 ring, which was expensive in those days.
Pope learned this week, though, to never say never. The man who emailed him, a Curt Lehman, from West Virginia, had his ring.
"I thought Oh my god. And I almost lost it," said Pope, holding back tears.
And the man had been searching for its owner for more than 25 years.
"I decided I better find out who it belonged to," said the 75-year-old Lehman.
Lehman owns several pawn shops in West Virginia and has been using a metal detector to find things since 1973. He actually found the ring while on vacation with his family the same year Graydon lost it.
"It was at night, pitch dark along the beach,” Lehman said. “I had my metal detector and got a strong reaction. My daughter had a sand scooper and you could hear the metal clunking around. She said...‘It's a ring.’"
The only hints about the owner: The numbers “83,” “Eau Claire Beavers,” and the initials “G. P.” Curt wrote a letter to the first obvious place he could think of....the university in Eau Claire Wisconsin, but never got a response.
20 years passed, then just last week Lehman came across the ring in his collection of finds and thought the Internet might help.
After a quick search, Curt learned there was another Eau Claire...this one in Michigan. And that the graduating class of 1983 included a guy with the initials “G. P.” – Graydon Pope.
When asked what made him want to return it, Lehman told WSBT, "It wasn't mine. I figured it might have meant something to somebody."
Curt carefully packaged up the ring and mailed it to Pope.
"I opened it up and I said, "Oh my God, it even still fits!" said an elated Pope, who also said opening his mail on Saturday was like a child opening presents on Christmas.
"It's unbelievable knowing that there's honest people out there anymore," beamed Pope.
Pope’s wife, Dorothy, says they have been deeply touched by the kindness of this stranger.
"To receive that act of kindness, it's humbling and it's nice. I think that it's not something you get every day,” she said.
Both Pope and his wife thanked Lehman by phone for going to such great lengths to return the ring.
Lehman say he finds a lot of coins and rings, but he told us that finding Pope’s ring and being able to return it to him after all these years has really touched him.
But this isn't the only ring the Pope family has lost. Dorothy, graduated from Ottawa Hills High School in Grand Rapids in 1983, and also lost her high school class ring the same year Graydon did, in 1985, at Epcot Center at Disney World in Florida.
It has never been returned.
The family is hoping their luck will continue.