VALPARAISO, Ind. —A couple in Valparaiso, Indiana say they still can’t believe their luck after a special token of love returned to them nearly 55 years later.
The story begins with Kyle Tobias, a firefighter from Fontana, Wisconsin with a knack for finding what once was lost.
“I was contacted by a gentleman who lost his ring back in 1976 and wanted to know if there was any chance it could be found,” he said.
Which brought him from Wisconsin to Bangs Lake in Wauconda, Illinois. He scanned the water where the old J slide at Phil’s Neach once stood. He heard the tell-tale beep of something under the sand.
“I dug down about 6-7 inches, pulled up my scoop and found the class ring in my scoop,” he said.
It wasn’t the ring he was looking for, but boy, did that ring ever have a story — one that might have never surfaced, if Tobias and Wauconda Park District’s Debbie Yakimisky hadn’t done a little more digging.
They matched the class ring mascot to a high school all the way in Jasper.
A day later, the assistant superintendent from Walker County called back with what might just be a lead.
“He decided it was the Alabama ring, he looked inside the initials and pulled out the yearbook,” Yakimisky said.
He landed on the only guy that graduated from there in 1967 with those initials: Odis Kilgore.
Getting that ring was important to Kilgore.
“I was actually the first one to graduate high school in my family. My father had an 8th grade education,” he said.
Plus there was a hand of a girl from Chicago, he was determined to put it on. He slipped that ring on his sweetheart Malinda’s finger just after graduating.
“It meant a lot,” she said. “Especially with him going into the Army and being away all that time.”
It stayed on her finger until the day she visited Phil’s Beach and that token of love came off while going down the infamous slide. And it sat at the bottom of the lake for more than five decades.
Kilgore ended up putting another ring on Malinda’s finger in 1971 and they have lived in Valparasio ever since. The couple has two children, 9 grandchildren and give great grandchildren.
They say they almost forgot about that ring from way back when until the doorbell rang and a stranger from two states away was at their door, to return a piece of their love story to its rightful owner.
A beloved ring, made more precious through a serendipitous journey back home.