Doug Moe: Class ring mystery has a happy ending

2010-09-14T15:55:00Z 2010-10-18T07:50:15Z Doug Moe: Class ring mystery has a happy endingBy DOUG MOE | dmoe@madison.com | 608-252-6446 madison.com

She found the ring about three weeks ago in her mother’s jewelry box. It was in a bag with other rings, but the one with the big blue stone stood out. It was a class ring. The thing was, it wasn’t her mother’s class.

Ranee Ellefson-Jones, of Monroe, was helping her father, Bob Ellefson, go through her late mother’s things. Her mother, Joan Ellefson, also of Monroe, died over the summer.

Joan was a 1960 graduate of Monroe High School, and while Ranee at first thought the tiny date on the ring said 1960, the ring also had a big “S” in the middle of it.

“I thought maybe an old boyfriend had given it to her,” Ranee said this week.

It was a week or two later, she said, when she got a chance to ask her dad about the ring. He didn’t recognize it, or have any idea where it came from.

Still curious, Ellefson-Jones examined the ring more closely, eventually using a magnifying class.

She found she had misread the date on the ring. It said 1969.

That only added to the confusion. What was her mother doing with a class ring dated nine years after she graduated? And one not from Monroe High School?

Ellefson-Jones’ closer examination of the ring yielded two more bits of information: a tiny inscription of “Wayne” beneath the large “S,” as well as the initials “KLP.”

South Wayne is a village southwest of Monroe. Until the late 1960s it had a high school, but in 1967 the school consolidated with Gratiot High School to form Black Hawk High School, located in South Wayne.

Of course, students often order their class rings when they are underclassmen, so it was possible that a 1969 graduate of Black Hawk High School could have had a class ring signifying South Wayne.

Ellefson-Jones called Black Hawk High School. She was eventually put through to the voice mail of a librarian in charge of the school yearbooks and left a message saying she wondered if a boy with the initials “KP” had graduated from Black Hawk in 1969.

“I thought for sure it was a boy’s ring,” Ellefson-Jones said, referencing the large, rectangular stone. “Girls’ rings, at least today, are daintier.”

She got a call back from the Black Hawk librarian, who said that no boys with those initials graduated from Black Hawk in 1969. There was, however, a girl: Karen Peterson.

Not only that, the librarian said, she knew that Peterson was still living in the area and that she worked at the Monroe Travel Center.

Last week, Ellefson-Jones reached Peterson by phone.

“Did you lose a class ring?”

“I did,” Peterson said, “but that was 42 years ago.”

In the fall of 1968, Peterson had been shopping with girlfriends for homecoming dresses at the JC Penney store in Monroe.

“We took our jewelry off,” she said this week, “so our clothes wouldn’t catch on it.”

Peterson recalled that they left the store, and an hour or so later she discovered she had left without her ring. When she went back and searched the dressing rooms, there was no sign of the ring.

How it wound up in a jewelry box belonging to Ellefson-Jones’ mother remains a mystery. Ranee thinks Joan might have inherited it when her own mother died in 1993, but how Ranee’s grandmother might have come to have it is a mystery, too.

In any case, last week Tuesday, Ranee brought it to the travel center. Peterson’s eyes lit up, and she slipped the ring on her finger. After 42 years, it still fit.

“I wish my clothes from my junior year in high school fit as well,” she said.

Peterson wore it for a few days and couldn’t be more delighted to have it back in her possession.

Ellefson-Jones said the look on Peterson’s face when she saw the ring was priceless. And it got her thinking about her own class ring.

“I lost it 20 years ago,” she said. “Maybe in another 22 years, mine will show up.”

Contact Doug Moe at 608-252-6446 or dmoe@madison.com.

Copyright 2014 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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