For years and years, the faded gold class ring had been sitting in a glass jar, unclaimed and with no obvious owner.

Richard and Mary Miller had found it with their metal detector while poking around Sweetwater Lake. The ring wasn’t the first piece of jewelry they had found, but it was the most distinctive: a Greenwood Community High School Class of 1984 ring with ruby stones set in it and a name, Kevin Alvey, written in barely distinguishable cursive script.

The Millers had tried to find the owner over the decade or so after they uncovered the ring. They never did. Still, the mystery gripped them.

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“I’m a journey kind of guy. When we go on vacation, it’s not about leaving here and getting there, it’s about what we see on the way,” Richard Miller said. “It’s the same way with this ring. The journey to find out about it has been pretty cool.”

In November, after a number of serendipitous connections, that journey came to an end. The Millers were able to give the ring back to Alvey, who had lost it sometime in the early ’80s.

A chain of people, most of whom had never met before, worked to get the ring back to its rightful owner.

“I never thought I’d see that ring again,” Alvey said.

As the different players came together, they realized they were connected in different ways: growing up in nearby neighborhoods, having mutual acquaintances or living in the same towns. Everyone involved still resides in Johnson County, some only a few miles apart from each other.

“It’s stuff like this where you realize how very small the world is,” said Marty Walker, a Whiteland resident who helped the ring get back to Alvey. “Somehow, someway, we’re all connected.”

The saga started sometime after Alvey graduated in 1984. He had grown up hanging around the Sweetwater Lake area, spending his teenage years hanging out with friends and lounging around the beach on summer days.

He doesn’t remember exactly when he lost it, but always thought he had an idea what may have happened to it.

One rainy day, Alvey and his friends were involved in an accident in the back roads around the lake, and their car ended up in a ditch. No one was hurt, but Alvey has long believed he lost his ring at the scene.

“Pulling the car out of the mud, that’s when he always thought he had lost it,” said DeeDee Alvey, Kevin Alvey’s wife.

For decades, the ring was just gone. But sometime in the last 20 years — no one is exactly sure when — it re-emerged.

Richard and Mary Miller, who live in Bargersville now, had picked up metal detecting as a hobby and often spent free time at their property on Sweetwater Lake, including the public beach.

During one of their trips years ago, they found a gold class ring.

“We were just swiping back and forth, and we found it. Of course, we were excited about it, but I’m not sure we realized what it was at the time,” Richard Miller said.

The distinctive design of the Herff Jones brand ring had “GCHS” and “1984” in stylized design on the face. From being out in the elements, the red ruby inlay had faded from deep red to a rosy pink color.

At the time, the Millers looked up the name in the phone book, but couldn’t find any matches. Not knowing where else to turn, they stored it among the other items they’d found while metal-detecting.

“It was one of those things where you put it in a jar, not even thinking about it,” Richard Miller said. “In time you forget about it, but from time to time I’d get it out and think about, get excited and try to figure out whose it was.”

With the growth of social media and the viral way information spreads, the Millers thought they’d have better luck reaching out to people in mid-November through Facebook.

Doing some sleuthing on Greenwood Community High School, Richard Miller was connected to Walker. The Whiteland resident is active in Greenwood alumni groups and helps organize reunions and other events.

He contacted her, not thinking there would be much headway.

Walker didn’t know of Kevin Alvey offhand, but wanted to dig around and see if anyone else might know him. She posted on the Greenwood alumni Facebook, asking if anyone knew a graduate by that name from the Class of ‘84.

Almost immediately, a friend of Kevin Alvey named Shawn Dunbar responded that he knew him and his wife. Most importantly, the Alveys still lived in Johnson County.

Dunbar served as the go-between, reaching out to DeeDee Alvey to let her know that they had found what was probably Kevin’s class ring.

“We didn’t even know each other, but we were like two little schoolgirls, yelling and crying,” Walker said. “We started talking, and she said that yes, it was probably his ring. He didn’t remember where exactly he lost it.”

Kevin and DeeDee Alvey have been together for 34 years, and even when they met, he didn’t have the ring.

“I can’t even describe what it was like. I was so overwhelmed by the thought that all these people who don’t know my husband care enough and were excited enough to find him,” DeeDee Alvey said.

Though the excitement was difficult to contain, DeeDee Alvey waited to tell her husband. She wanted Walker and the others involved to be there when they handed over the ring.

On Nov. 20, they gathered in the Alveys’ garage, where Kevin was presented with the ring that had gone missing more than 30 years ago.

“I think I was more excited than he was,” DeeDee Alvey said.

Since Kevin Alvey was reunited with the ring, those involved have shared the tale on Facebook and other social media. The story seems to have struck a chord, with old classmates and friends commenting and sharing it, enough to have gone viral locally.

The unlikeliness of the ring making its way back to Kevin Alvey is what has drawn the most surprise and attention. But for those involved, the bigger story is a group of strangers working together as one.

“There’s really nothing magical or mystical about it. It was just diligence on everyone’s part,” Richard Miller said.

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.