Sunday, October 10, 2010

Ring returned – 41 years later

THE QUEENS COURIER/Photo by Steve Mosco
Tom Hagan got his class ring back when a fellow war vet returned it to him – 41 years after he lost it.


Tom Hagan shipped out to Vietnam in 1969 from a replacement station in Fort Dix, New Jersey and, like most of his fellow soldiers, took a shower before he left. But Hagan left more than just sweat and grime from that humid summer day in that shower – he also left his 1968 Valley Stream North High School class ring in the soap dish.

He went to Vietnam with the 82nd Airborne and since he had other things on his mind, he never really thought about his missing ring – until 41 years later when he received a call from Ronald Dye.

“I remembered losing the ring, but I was just only out of high school about a year when I lost it,” said Hagan, who’s lived in Bayside for 21 years. “Out of nowhere I got a call from this guy saying, ‘You’re the one.’”

When Dye found the ring that day in Fort Dix, he noticed the shower was dry and that meant that whoever left it there was long gone. He put it in his foot locker and kept it with his possessions throughout his time serving with the 4th Transit Company stationed in southern Vietnam. For two tours, three years in total, he carried it with him, eventually taking it back home to Nancy, Kentucky.

“I picked up this ring because I had lost a camera the same way and I never got it back,” said Dye. “I knew I wanted to get this ring back to whoever owned it. I just didn’t know how, so it stayed in my bathroom vanity for a number of years.”

Though it sat out of sight, it was never quite out of mind for Dye. He had no idea whose ring it was or even if the owner was still alive – but he knew that he needed to get it back to the owner or the owner’s family.

“The ring got to be a heavy burden on me,” he said. “I knew that somebody needed this ring besides me. If the owner is dead, then his parents or family should have it.”

Dye set out to find the finger to fit the ring – no easy task, especially in the days before the Internet. The only information he had was from the ring itself; the school, the year and initials. He didn’t know where to start or if there was even a way to find out who the ring belonged to.

It wasn’t until after he retired from the State Department four years ago that he started to think about the ring again. After an initial search proved fruitless, he went to the school’s web site – and knew he had it right when he saw the Spartan logo.

He contacted the school district and spoke to the principal’s office, who contacted Hagan’s parents – who, as luck would have it, were still living in Hagan’s childhood home.

“My parents heard from the school’s Alumni Association. They then contacted my sister who finally got a hold of me,” said Hagan. “He [Dye] sure was persistent.”

Dye’s persistence was a product of his military training and career. He said soldiers, even the ones that never meet each other, form a bond that most people cannot comprehend. When he first spoke to Hagan on the phone, Dye told him that he was “Glad he made it back too.” They spoke for about 30 minutes during that first phone call and Dye mailed the ring to Hagan immediately after.

“When I spoke to him, it was like the weight of the world off my shoulders,” said Dye. “I never knew him in our younger days, but I got the ring back to him and I felt good about it.”

For Hagan, the only downside was that the ring didn’t quite fit his ring finger anymore. It seems that four decades not only adds maturity – it also tends to add a little weight.

“Forty years is a long time. I have to wear it on my pinky now,” laughed Hagan. “It’s all thanks to Dye and the Internet – this probably wouldn’t have been possible without the computer.”

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