Tributes & Stories

Class Ring Reunions

We do our best to find missing rings and reunite them with you, and lately we’ve had a good bit of success in this arena. We even had grads cyber-chase someone down who was pawning one online. We know these rings are sacred, so our cyber sleuthing and pawn shop pacing is taken very seriously. Luckily, others take it just as seriously as we do.

With all the sad and terrifying stories in the news/world lately, I have a heartwarming story that will restore your faith in our fellow humans! 

1944 Ring Returned

Found with Thief Caught in Virginia Who Left a Large Wake of Theft up the East Coast

We had our latest class ring return to us via an evidence locker from the Salem Police Department in Virginia—as noted in the photos, the ring is still in the sealed evidence bag. Here is the timeline and story as recorded by our Associate Programs Director, Noreen Frenaye:

Class of 1944 ring timeline

2-7-18, 1121: LT Dillon Scherger, Class of 2012, U.S. Navy Officer Recruiting, Chaplain Officer Recruiting, NRD Richmond/NORS Charlottesville contacted me asking if I was ring POC.

2-7-18, 1138: LT Scherger explains there is another recruiter in Roanoke, VA, Chief Jake Ridgway, who says that Salem PD has a ring they recovered from a woman stealing stuff out of peoples' cars from North Carolina all the way to Roanoke. Gives me a partial of the name inside.

2-7-18, 1536: Detective Joseph Blackwell, Salem PD sends photos. Ring found among items found with a woman arrested stealing from cars up and down the east coast.

I identify the ring as belonging to the late CAPT Wayne D. Surface, USN (Ret.). His obituary said he was survived by his companion Mary Florence Ray. His first two wives died prior to him. I reached out to Mary.

2-14-18: I finally spoke with Mary Ray and explained everything. She requested the ring be returned to her.

2-15-18: Mary Ray wrote to me:

Hi Noreen,
After thinking this over, I believe that Wayne would have liked to have the ring benefit some young person. So please accept the ring for the special program that you mentioned when we spoke on the phone.
It is really gratifying to think that his ring has gone full circle. Thank you so much.

5/31/18: DET Blackwell wrote me back: “I need to email you a property release form and have you sign it and send it back to me and I’ll send the ring out personally this week. The ring was given to a close friend and shipmate of CAPT Surface per Mary who lives in Tennessee. At some point it was lost or stolen and ended up in the possession of the person I arrested for vehicle burglaries in Salem, VA. I wasn’t sure if you had that part of the history.

6/18/18: Ring has been received and will be held for the class of 2044’s Bonds of Gold ceremony with their Another Link in the Chain class of 1994. Success!

CDR Gregory W. Crabtree '84, USN (Ret.) (as told by Ursula Crabtree): My husband bikes to work from Tysons/McLean, VA to Bethesda, MD via surface roads, the Chain Bridge and the C&O Canal towpath each day.  It is a beautiful ride, including the scenic stretch along the canal which consists of a fairly even dirt and gravel path along the Potomac River.  After heavy rains late this summer, the towpath was rendered one long water hazard.  One evening, a particularly ill-mannered/belligerent puddle grabbed Greg’s bike and threw him to the left and his bike saddle bag to the right.  He picked himself up, collected his bike bag and continued to peddle home where he and his bike arrived home a slightly bruised and spectacularly muddy mess.  After cleaning up and taking inventory, he realized that his USNA class ring was missing. The entire family immediately grabbed flashlights (as dusk was approaching), formed a search party and headed back to the scene of the incident. Our search was fruitless.  Greg filed a lost and found report with DC Metro Police. 

On day T+1, we searched again with no success.  We began to theorize various cynical outcomes to this story, many of which revolved around the ring having been found by someone who had ill intentions. 

On day T+2, an email arrived from the USNA Alumni Association advising us that someone had found a ring and asking whether Greg may have lost his ring recently!  Several phone calls and a short ride into Bethesda later, Greg was happily reunited with his class ring! 

The hero in this story is Chris Mihm of Bethesda.  His daily bike commute from Bethesda into DC overlaps Greg’s commute along the towpath.  He passed the scene of Greg’s mishap not long after on Tuesday evening.  He noticed something shiny near the path and had the curiosity and decency to stop and look.  His first response when he found the ring was that it must belong to a fellow bike commuter!  He and his wonderful wife Wendy took photos of the ring and the inscription (so helpful when the inscription reads “Gregory W. Crabtree”) and sent the photos to a friend who works at St. John’s College in Annapolis in hopes that the friend may know whom to contact at the Naval Academy.  The friend ultimately connected them with Alumni Association and the rest is wonderful history!

LCDR Jim Warren '78
(lost ring pictured right): It’s every child’s dream to dig a hole in the ground and uncover buried treasure. In some instances, one needn’t even be looking to stumble across something special.

This is what happened in Rachel Rogers’ case. This spring, her and her husband began the process of adding a swimming pool behind their Texas home.

As the digging began, Rogers’ husband said he unearthed something. They quickly realized they had found a Naval Academy class ring.

Unbeknownst to the Rogers family, LCDR Jim Warren ’78, USN (Ret.), had lived in the same neighborhood almost three decades earlier.

“At that time, Masters of the Universe was the big rage for all the young kids,” explained Warren. “My son, Chris, liked to pretend he was He-Man, battling the evil Skeletor.”

Unfortunately, Warren’s son liked to use his father’s class ring to fight the bad guys. On one fateful occasion, he took it with him when playing outside.
“I guess Skeletor won that day, because my ring disappeared,” said Warren. He searched the neighborhood but eventually resigned himself to the fact that he’d never see the ring again.

Warren replaced his class ring but still reported it lost in 2001.

Fast forward thirty years—Rogers is holding a token of someone’s time at the Academy. She said she couldn’t believe the ring had been out in the elements for that long.

“It actually looks really new, besides some dirt stuck in the crevices,” she said.

Because the ring was so well preserved, both the graduation year and name engraving were clearly visible. Rogers attempted to find Warren online at first. Unsuccessful, she then contacted the Naval Academy in the hopes of reuniting the ring and owner.

“They helped me 100%,” said Rogers, admitting she was initially unsure if the Academy could or would provide assistance.

“I am so happy to get your ring back to you,” she said to Warren. “Have a wonderful Father's Day.” 

Major Arnoux Abraham Jr. '93'
s Mustang was stolen back in 1998, and his class ring with it. Luckily, it turned up in a pawn shop recently and was sent to us. Here’s a pic of a very happy Arnoux, right, reunited with his ring in DC.

Captain Mike Donnelly ’66 (pictured below) wore his ring for his entire military career, surviving seven tours of Vietnam. It went missing on a trip in 2012. In preparation of his 50th reunion, he decided to have a replacement made. “And then, out of the blue, exactly six days later,” he said, "I received an email from the Alumni Association advising that a gentleman on the east coast of Australia had found my original ring buried in the sand while metal detecting with his grandson. He said a pawn shop operator advised him that ‘someone will really want that ring back.’ So, with the persistence and aid of the Alumni association it was determined to be mine, and the recovery process began, completing this afternoon.

“My deepest thanks to all of you for returning my USNA ’66 class ring to me. Today I ceremoniously unwrapped it from the mail from Henry Wittich, and returned it to my finger. After a journey of about five years it is home at last. Thanks first to Brian and his grandson who found the ring under a foot of sand, while beachcombing in The Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Then he and his wife, and the pawn broker, all decided there might be a Navy man out there that was missing the ring. They did an extensive search and connected with the staff of the US Naval Academy Alumni Association, who identified the ring as mine. Just two weeks before, I had given up hope of finding my ring, and had a replacement manufactured by Balfour Jewelers.  When told my old ring had been found, Mr Wittich let me return the new ring for a refund. Then, for the next few months my old ring went to-and-fro, until it arrived at the Balfour factory in San Antonio where it was refurbished, repaired, and brought to a beautiful condition. It was posted to me here in Perth, Western Australia, and is on my finger as I type.
The ring reminds me of the dedication and sacrifice of my entire Class of 1966.  I wore mine through Vietnam campaigns, numerous at-sea tours, as Captain of the USS Gray, several Command ashore tours, and then continuously in retirement. From the day I dipped my ring in the waters of the seven seas in June 1965, and resuming from today, my Naval Academy ’66 ring will be a constant reminder of the opportunity I had to serve our country with my classmates, and the honest and caring people in Australia and the US that made this possible.”

We were recently visited by Captain Alan Scott '81 (pictured on the right) who came back to Annapolis for his reunion with a ring in his pocket. He found it at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. Meanwhile, Ensign Togasii Peko '15 was missing his ring that he had lost at the school a year ago. Another happy ring reunion facilitated.