It's been over 65 years since Mattoon, Ill., resident Dick Diedrich, 82, last saw his high school class ring, but it's now back in his possession rather unexpectedly.
Diedrich says he received a phone call 10 days ago from a stranger claiming to have found the ring in Minocqua, Wis., which is about 350 miles from where Diedrich last saw it: at high school in Cicero, Ill.
Mike Geiger, 49, says he found the ring with his metal detector. It was submerged in five feet of water.
"It's fun finding things but I don't like to keep things that belong to other people, so if I can return it, I like to," Geiger said.
And that's exactly what he did when he found Diedrich's ring on Independence Day weekend. He used information from the ring - class year, school and the initials "RD" for Richard Diedrich - to track down the original owner through the high school's alumni association.
Geiger called Diedrich and told him he'd found a class ring that may belong to him. "[Diedrich] said 'My class ring was from J Sterling Morton's class of 1949' and I said "Well guess what! I have your ring!'" Geiger recalls.
Diedrich says he had a hard time believing Geiger when he first got the call. He and his wife Doris had exchanged the class rings when they were dating in high school. Doris was wearing it while dissecting a frog in botany class and took it off to wash her hands after class was over.
"There was another gal in the washroom at the time. When Doris was done cleaning up, she went to get the ring from the shelf where she'd left it, and both the girl and ring were gone," Diedrich said. "She never really saw the girl and we went to a large school, so we considered it a lost cause."
And he still wasn't entirely convinced when Geiger called. But three days after their conversation, he received the ring in the mail.
"I was surprised and pleased when it arrived," he said, "and my wife was all excited about seeing the ring again."
Diedrich and his wife were so pleased that they offered Geiger a reward for his help.
Geiger turned it down.
"Dick said something to me - something like 'there's so much negativity in the world that it's hard to believe you'd have done something like this,' and I said 'that's why I do it. People want to do something positive to restore faith in humanity.'"
Geiger says he's happy to have formed this unique friendship, and he hopes to meet Diedrich some day.