MATTOON — Until about 10 days ago, 82-year-old Dick Diedrich hadn’t laid eyes on his high school class ring for more than 60 years.

Diedrich and his now-wife, Doris Diedrich, both Mattoon residents, graduated from J. Sterling Morton High School in Cicero in 1949. They were high school sweethearts who recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, and 63 years ago when the couple purchased their class rings they quickly exchanged them.

“I wore hers on my pinky finger and she wore mine, except in biology class when they were dissecting frogs,” Mr. Diedrich said.

In mid-1948, Doris placed the ring on a shelf when she was washing her hands; however, once she’d turned around, the ring was gone.

That was until about a week ago, when Mike Geiger of Waukesha, Wis., phoned the Diedrichs’ Mattoon home.

“He said, ‘I think I have something that goes back to your high school years,’” Mr. Diedrich said. “At that point, that story with the ring popped into my head.”

He said he’d found a 1949 class ring from J. Sterling Morton High School.

“Now we’re talking 60-plus years that I haven’t seen the ring, and I just couldn’t believe he had it.”

Geiger and Mr. Diedrich exchanged the specifics of the ring, including the school, graduation year and style; however, the key to reconnecting the ring with its owner was the engraved initials “R.D.”

Geiger got in contact with the school’s alumni association, which said that out of the 1,500 students who graduated in the class of 1949, only two had the initials R.D. — and Richard “Dick” Diedrich was one of them. Geiger called a different man with the same initials, but he was unfriendly, so he tried again with Mr. Diedrich.

“That’s when he said he’d like to send the ring back,” Mr. Diedrich said. “I wanted to send him a reward, but he said he was just pleased to be able to return it.”

The ring was in the mail the next day.

While he was waiting for the ring to arrive, Mr. Diedrich and his wife talked about what the ring looked, and he contacted about six classmates to make sure the ring truly belonged to him.

“When it arrived everything he said about the ring was true,” Mr. Diedrich said.

When he contacted Geiger after receiving the ring, the 49-year-old again denied the notion of receiving a reward for finding the ring.

“Then he said, you never asked how I found the ring,’” Mr. Diedrich recalled.

Geiger explained that he was scanning with a metal detector at a lake near his home.

“He pulled the ring out of the water, and it really was in excellent shape for being so old,” Mr. Diedrich said.

Though Mr. Diedrich’s been researching to ensure the ring is in fact his that he lost decades ago, Geiger said he’s convinced he found the owner.

“‘It’s your ring,’ he told me, ‘Keep it and enjoy it,’” Mr. Diedrich said. “So the bottom line is, I’m now sitting here at 82 years old with my class ring 63 years later.”

Contact Zyskowski at kzyskowski@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6869.

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