OWENSBORO, Ky. — Judith Berry remembers the moment she noticed her class ring was missing.

It was the summer of 1966 — a year after she graduated from Owensboro High School. Berry had just hopped on a city bus in downtown Owensboro after shopping at McAtee’s, S. W. Anderson’s and Salm’s. She felt for her class ring, but it was gone.

She dashed back to the stores, asking clerks if they’d found a ladies 1965 OHS class ring.

No such luck.

“I got back on the bus thinking, ‘That’s it. It’s gone.’ It broke my heart,” Berry said.

After more than 50 years, she never dreamed of seeing it again.

But it’s on her finger today — thanks to Joe Hagman of Hawesville, a stranger who found Berry through an online search and returned her ring.

The story really started two years ago with the death of Hagman’s aunt, Patsy Frey of Owensboro.

Frey never married or had children. Hagman and his brother, James Hagman, collected her personal belongings from her apartment and sorted through them after her death.

While going through her handbags, James Hagman found a 1965 OHS class ring inscribed with the initials JAB. He put it in a safe and didn’t think about it until he and his brother were talking last month.

That’s when Joe Hagman hatched a plan to find its owner. He posted a picture of the ring on his Facebook page, and he searched online for a 1965 OHS alumni site or anyone from the class with the initials JAB.

While he was digging around online, Berry’s name popped up. As it turned out, she was looking for some lost yearbooks from her high school days.

His internet search took about two hours, he said.

He sent her a private Facebook message: “Hi, my name is Joe Hagman. Search me on Facebook. Are you a OHS class of 65 member? Were/are your initials JAB? Did you lose your class ring?”

Not knowing anyone named Joe Hagman, Berry feared a scam was in play. “Where did you find the ring?” she asked.

They weren’t friends on Facebook, so she couldn’t see enough information to satisfy her that he wasn’t a scam artist.

At some point in the online conversation, Joe Hagman asked Berry to describe the ring.

That didn’t bode well.

She wrote: “Mr. Hagman, it’s been over 50 years since I’ve seen that ring and can’t remember all the details. I’ve done without it very well and you can dispose of it as you see fit.”

Her retort didn’t stop Joe Hagman.

His next private message was long. In it, he wrote one compelling sentence, “I don’t know why I care, but I do.”

They met at Owensboro Convention Center during the Ag Expo, where Joe Hagman returned Berry’s long-lost class ring.

It still fit.

“I really got choked up,” Berry said as she held up her hand and admired the ring.

“How many people would have thrown it away or hocked it? But you went to the effort,” she said to Joe Hagman.

So how did Frey get the ring?

No one knows for sure. But Joe Hagman said his aunt loved to shop in second-hand stores. He believes she may have purchased it in one or perhaps it was in a used garment or purse she bought.

“He is my hero — pure and simple,” Berry said, as she patted Joe Hagman’s shoulder. “I cannot thank him enough for going to the trouble and hard work.”


Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, http://www.messenger-inquirer.com

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RENEE BEASLEY JONES
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