Scuba diver Brad Swain found a high school class ring at the bottom of a New Hampshire lake nearly 50 years ago, and spent about 40 years tracking down its owner.
Earlier this month, the freshly cleaned and polished ring — a gold band with a blue stone — was delivered to a surprised and delighted woman in Florida.
When Swain, now 68, of Glastonbury, Conn., was in his early twenties, he was snorkeling in Lake Winnipesaukee where his family has vacationed since 1948, and came across the ring in the shallow water. He doesn’t remember exactly which year he found the ring, but knows it was “sometime between 1962 and 1965.”
“My family used to rent a little place on the shores of Lake Winnipesauke in the summertime. I was swimming in the resort swimming area, and the water wasn’t very deep and I was snorkeling and just happened to see this ring,” Swain told ABCNews.com.
The ring he discovered turned out to be 1962 girl’s Beverly (Massachusetts) High School class ring.
“I didn’t know anybody from Beverly, Mass., so I just kind of stuck it in a drawer,” Swain said.
But as time passed, Swain decided it would be fun to track down the ring’s owner, identified by the “DRD” initials inside the ring.
“In the mid 1970s I decided to try to find out who it belonged to. The initials were inside as they are in all high school rings. I called BHS and gave them the three initials and asked them if they could look into a class yearbook to see who it belongs to,” Swain explained.
The school, however, was unwilling to help him.
“They were unwilling to do that because that would amount to providing personal information to an unknown person. In this world today, privacy is everything,” Swain said.
He thought about visiting Beverly High School to look through the yearbooks, but never got around to making the trip. But last December, he decided to initiate another search because 2012 would be the 50th reunion for the Beverly High School class of 1962.
“So I located the BHS alumni website and I was able to obtain a few email addresses for BHS 1962 alumni. And I wrote to them and gave them the three initials. Within a few days, they got back to me, and we had the search narrowed down to a single person,” Swain said.
With the help of the alumni, he was able to track the woman’s location to Florida. Swain, mindful of privacy, will only identify her as Donna.
He had her married name, an address and a phone number for her. But the phone number was not active, and packages sent to the address were returned as undeliverable. The reunion came and went, the woman did not attend, and it appeared to be a dead issue.
However, Swain is not easily deterred, and he gave the search effort one final try.
“On Sept. 30, 2012, I got the email address for the editor of the Beverly Citizen newspaper and I told her my story and I asked her if she’d be willing to place something in her paper to try to find someone who knew the person,” Swain explained. “On Oct. 9, she called me back with news that a reader had contacted her with a number for the person in Florida.”
Swain called Donna and they chatted for 20 minutes. She told him she only had the ring for two weeks before losing it in the lake.
“So this gal gave me her address and before I mailed the ring I took it to a local Connecticut jeweler who did a complimentary cleaning. It was fabulous, came out like brand new,” Swain said.
He mailed the ring to Donna on Oct. 11, and about four or five days later she called to let him know she had received it.
“She got it and was so happy. She was shocked. She thanked me profusely. Saying ‘I can’t believe you spent all this time looking.’ But for me, it was fun. I enjoy the detective work of doing that kind of stuff,” said Swain.
He even credits finding the ring as helping him choose his scuba diving career path.
“I wasn’t a scuba diver when I found the ring, but I am now. I’m actually a scuba diving instructor. That certainly helped spur my interest,” said Swain. “I spend a lot of time underwater. I enjoy searching for shipwrecks in the lake. It all goes hand in hand.”