When a young Marine dated a young woman who would become his wife, she longed to wear his high school ring. He couldn’t oblige because his ring was lost.
Now some 44 years later Lynette McKee will get the ring she desired so long ago. Last week Dave McKee was reunited with his Southwest DeKalb High School ring, class of 1964.
“I thought I’d never see it again,” said McKee, a telephone systems installer who lives in McDonough.
The reunion came about thanks to a California woman, a Decatur newspaper, a DeKalb sheriff’s deputy and a few other helpful individuals. Three weeks ago, Diana Flynn of Oceanside, Calif., contacted The Champion newspaper about trying to find the owner of a ring that had been found at a West Coast restaurant owned by her family.
Flynn’s husband’s parents owned The Red Rooster, a popular hamburger spot in the late-1970s and early 1980s, in Oceanside. She recalled a conversation with them about a high school ring from Georgia that had been found there years ago, and when she was cleaning out her in-laws’ home recently (both are deceased) she came across the ring.
Flynn speculates that the man’s ring might belong to someone who joined the Marines and was stationed at Camp Pendleton, which is about 10 minutes away from the site of the former eatery.
The Champion ran an article about the search, which struck a cord with Mary Hopkins who immediately took action. The DeKalb County sheriff’s deputy reached out to a friend who had attended Southwest DeKalb and asked if she had yearbooks from the 1960s. The friend turned over yearbooks from 1961-1963 and provided the name of someone who was involved in a 30-year reunion for the school.
Hopkins, who works in Court Services and is not an investigator, then searched the yearbooks, spoke with the reunion coordinator and conducted Internet searches through classmates.com and whitepages.com and came up with the name and phone number of a man in Henry County who seemed to be a match.
Then Hopkins made the call.
“Of course people think you’re crazy when you call up with information like this,” she said.
McKee’s wife, who took the first call, was a bit suspicious about Hopkins questions. So Hopkins read her the article, and the information was passed on to her husband. Within a few days, Hopkins spoke to McKee, and McKee spoke to Flynn, and the ring was on its way back to Georgia.
“Thank you very much for your persistence and for caring enough to locate me. It means so much to me to get it back after 44 years,” wrote McKee in an email to Flynn the day after the ring arrived in McDonough in the mail. He also thanked Hopkins and The Champion.
Hopkins, who said she threw herself into the search just to help out, understands what a little gold ring can mean. The DeKalb County native, who graduated from a school in Florida, said she does not have her original high school ring after handing it to someone during an activity and not remembering who had it afterward. She bought a replacement.
McKee recalls that when he was at Marine radio school in San Diego, he was asked to remove his jewelry during a class. He put his ring in his desk drawer but forgot about it. He returned to the school later that day, but the classroom was locked, he said. The next day when he checked the desk drawer, the ring was gone.
McKee said that a year later when he was on his way to Vietnam, he passed through Camp Pendleton but never stopped in Oceanside or at The Red Rooster.
“There’s still good people out there caring enough, willing to go that far to find somebody,” said McKee. “It floored me.”
Back in the ‘60s the gold ring with the deep blue stone was a prize possession for McKee. He worked construction during a summer to buy the $35 ring but still came up short. His mother helped him out.
“I’m thrilled for him,” Flynn wrote in an email about how everything turned out.
“I’m honored to return this precious ring to a man who so honorably served our precious country,” Flynn wrote to McKee last week in an email that she shared with the newspaper.
When McKee and Hopkins met in Tucker to take photos for the newspaper, they shook hands and hugged.