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.

ENS Paul J. Fletcher III '21, USN (as provided Sylvia Johnson who found the ring): On 14 June 2021, I was helping with a volleyball training session for two young girls on the 9th street volleyball net in Ocean City, MD. When I went to the back line to serve a ball, I noticed something shiny in the sand next to my foot. Thinking it was maybe a coin or some cheap jewelry (the most valuable thing I had ever found on the beach, until that day, were some knock-off Ray Bans), I reached down to pick it up, planning on tossing it away. Once I realized that it was actually a USNA ring given to graduating midshipmen, I knew how much sentimental and monetary value it really had, and I also knew that I had to do what I could to get it back to its owner. I was so glad to get it back to Paul Fletcher, and I think he was pretty relieved to have it back on his finger!

Dr. Robert O. Hardy Rob Hardy, Class of 1972: From 1988 to 1992 I was serving in the USAF Medical Corps as a psychiatrist at the hospital at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, England. In 1992, the Air Force moved us back to Ohio. My Naval Academy class ring had been in a tin box in my dresser. When we unpacked in Dayton, the tin box was there, but the ring was not. The British packers had stolen it. Oh, well. I hadn’t been wearing it anyway (obviously), and was in a period where I was happy to neglect my USNA background. I was not heartbroken. The money we got from insurance went to buy my Soloflex, which I still use. 

One morning this past October, I was looking at a followed search in my eBay account, the one that tells me about USNA items for sale. This is my source of running togs, sweatshirts, bathroom drinking glasses, dog leashes and gag Xmas presents for my Ninth Company-mate John Dillon. I was astonished to find among the listings that my ring was offered by a seller in England. It was indeed my ring; the pictures showed my full name engraved inside.  Besides many pictures, the ring was described as a “stunning quality chunky c1972 United States Naval Academy star sapphire ring” and “Would grace any collection.” 

I had thought that it had been melted down years ago and lost forever. What good is somebody else’s old chunky gold ring other than that? I informed the eBay seller, Matthew Rowland of Norfolk, near where we lived when the ring was stolen. I was lucky to be dealing with Mr. Rowland, who helped all he could with getting me my ring back. He promptly took it off the auction and said he would sell it to me for what he paid. He told me that originally he doubted my claim that it was my stolen ring; he figured that I was just someone trying to get a lower price on it. But I wrote him the story of my loss, and even sent him a photo of my USNA diploma which bore my full name as engraved on the inside of my ring. 

He was convinced. He told me that he had paid in good faith for an item he did not know was stolen, and maybe his seller didn’t know it, either. In fact, he checked with his seller, who was adamant the ring was not ill-gotten, and was not pleased to be questioned.  It is of course impossible after all these years to ascertain the provenance of the ring after the theft or to punish the thief.

I learned something from this exchange that I did not before know. My wife Helen said she had felt guilty about the ring theft for 28 years.  I have no memory of this, but she says she was the one on duty while the items in the bedroom were being packed up, and so she felt that she should have spotted any chicanery. I had long ago given up thinking about my lost ring, but it bothered Helen, and it bothered her the more in my late USNA renaissance of acceptance of my Navy heritage as shown by my Navy-themed bucket hats, running shorts, mugs, and more. She was easily as enthusiastic about my re-purchase of the ring as I was, and she even had funds squirreled away to make it happen. 

When the ring came, I had to get it resized because it no longer fit my ring finger. It got over the joints just fine, but my ring finger muscles must be bigger than before. Perhaps they have been enlarged by all those sessions gripping the Soloflex. 

The price I paid Mr. Rowland was £2800. We made the deal go through by wire transfer. I have forgotten how much I paid for the ring fifty years ago, but what a bargain it must have been by comparison.  Some of you guys may be more gung-ho about our dear alma mater than I am, and you may have donated even more to the Alumni Association, but I claim the most expensive Naval Academy ring of anyone in the class of 1972. 

And from now on, I am wearing it. 

Walter (Bud) Pezet, Class of 1960: The year was 1975. I was living with my family near Mount Vernon, south of Washington, D.C. Following a disagreement with my wife at the time, she left the room, and unbeknownst to me, picked up my USNA class ring from my dresser and attempted to flush it down the toilet. Due to the considerable weight of the ring, it would not flush out of the commode. Undaunted, she then proceeded to wrap the ring in Kleenex tissue and try again. This did the trick and the ring was gone. That marriage ended five years later. 

I stayed in the Washington, D.C. area, moving around a bit, and remarried in 1985. We ended up in the McLean area in 1993.   Then in 1995, I received a phone call from a stranger. He asked if this was Walter. I said yes. A ‘sales call’, I thought. He then asked, “Walter A. Pezet?” I said yes. “Did you go to the Naval Academy?” “Yes”, I replied. He then identified himself as a Fairfax County Public Works employee working in the Sanitary Sewer Maintenance division. He explained that he had been performing maintenance in the sewers around Mount Vernon when he stepped on something hard. It was a ring which he took home, cleaned off, and determined there was a name engraved inside. Yes, it was my class ring which had been languishing in the Fairfax County sewers for 20 years! He returned the ring and was appropriately rewarded.

E. E. Roberts Jr. '40 (as provided by his son, Greg Roberts; ring was found by Chelsea Conlan): Our family lived on Coronado Island while my father commanded a destroyer stationed in the San Diego Bay. This was before they built the bridge, in the early 1950s.  My family occasionally visited the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park area on the San Diego mainland. This is the vicinity where his class ring was found.

My father ran away from his home in Ridgefield, CN and enlisted in the Navy in 1936. While serving as a sailor, he applied for the Naval Academy, was admitted, and graduated in 1940. He was stationed in Hawaii where he met my mother, who was born and raised in Honolulu. He was on one of the few ships, the USS Juneau, out of port when Pearl Harbor was attacked. My mother and her family sat on their front steps and watched the attack. His ship returned to port, he married my mother, and then put to sea.

During the war he was transferred to the USS Samuel B. Roberts, DE-413 (no relation). My father was the Executive Officer on the “Sammy B.” We have been enthralled with the history of what was arguably one of the greatest US naval battles in our history: The Battle of Samar. The “Sammy B” was described as “the destroyer escort that fought like a battleship." There is also a very moving account of the “Sammy B” by RADM Copeland who commanded the “Sammy B.” RADM Copeland said my father had an uncanny ability to target torpedoes and was a reason for so much success hitting the Japanese ships. When the “Sammy B” was sunk, the survivors spent nearly three days waiting to be rescued.

This is an amazing story, remembered again because Chelsea Conlan found the ring in San Diego, took the initiative to return it, and you were able to find its home.

Max H. Kirpatrick '63 (as provided by his son, Kevin Kirkpatrick) My father, Max Howard Kirkpatrick, was a great man. I am truly lucky and so proud to have had such a wonderful father. He graduated with honors from the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, class of 1963. He went to Submarine and Nuclear school then on to the submarine fleet. He served on three different boats (the USS Henry Clay (SSBN-625), the USS James Madison (SSBN-627), and the USS Gurnard (SSN-662) for the remainder of his Naval career.

I still remember the many stories he would tell when I was a child. Even into adulthood, I would often ask him to repeat them. Each time they were just as interesting, and I was just as fascinated as the first time I had heard them. Some of the stories centered on “the cabin”. This was a remote cabin in the woods near the shore of Norris Lake in Norris, TN. He frequented the cabin often during his high school years. He would go there with my uncle, older cousins, and other friends. He went to the cabin one final time during a short leave, after graduating from Navy Academy in Annapolis in 1963. He was sporting his brand new, highly coveted, and much deserved Naval Academy class ring while he was swimming that day. Sadly, it slipped off his finger and went to the bottom of the lake and he would never see it again. The story goes that he was so upset after spending much time trying to find it that he even went so far as to rent scuba gear.  But it was all in vain. All this happened before I was born so I had never seen the ring, but the stories of it through the years always brought back so many wonderful memories of my dad and his Naval Career.  On 30 October 2018 I was standing by his bed, holding his hand as he passed. Although he is gone, this story and others he had told me, will stay with me forever.

On Thursday, 14 November 2019 I received a phone call from a gentleman who asked if I was the son of Max Kirkpatrick. I told him I indeed was. He went on to say that he had an item that belonged to my father and wanted to return it to me. I still had no idea what it could be even after he explained that his friend, a local fisherman, had been fishing on Norris Lake when he spotted something shiny in the water and retrieved it. The item this fisherman retrieved turned out to be my father’s class ring! The gentleman I was talking to told me that his fisherman friend had asked him to see if he could find the owner so that it could be returned. He explained that he used the ring’s inscription and researched to find my father, only to find out he had already passed away. He then continued his research and found me. I was astonished and in shock. The gentleman was also astonished when I explained that the ring had been lost in late 1963 or early 1964, and that it had been at the bottom of the lake for 55 years. He said the ring had little wear or tarnish, that it looked as if it came right out of a display case.

On Saturday, 16 November 2019, I met the gentleman and he graciously returned the ring. I can’t begin to explain the overwhelming emotions I am feeling. This forever lost family heirloom is now real, physical, and in my possession to be cherished forever. I wish my father could have been alive to receive his ring, but I have to hope that somehow he knows. What are the odds of this? In addition, the person who found the ring lived across the street from me for several years. I would even stand in his driveway to wait for the school bus. This is so far beyond chance or coincidence that something else must be at play here. Perhaps, the most remarkable part of this story is knowing that in today’s world, there are still those with compassion, kindness, and nobility. The effort and resources these two men used to locate the owner of the ring and return it fills my heart with joy and hope for humanity.

Eric Bud “Cheeks” Heidhausen '80: As a young Marine Officer having graduated from Navy in 1980 I had completed TBS in Quantico and was stashed there for a few months until receiving orders to Pensacola for flight training.  My 18th Company roommate was also in Pensacola awaiting a starting class as a Navy Ensign.  We roomed together at 600 Scenic Highway in Pensacola in an Apartment building located next door to what used to be a bar – Machine Gun Kelly’s.  It so happens, we had an extra refer and stored a keg of beer in it located in our breakfast nook. We decided to meet our neighbors by throwing an apartment pool party (or place was directly in front of the pool) and had some food and free beer to those who joined us. I did not wear my ring during the early stages of flight training that included the dilbert dunker, the parachute drag across water, the bay parachute and rigid raider pickup events that spotted our training schedule.  I kept in on a shelf in my bedroom.  During the party a number of neighbors entered and refilled their cups with beer.  We did not take particular notice.

Unknown to me, and I am still assuming this is the case, my ring was stolen during that event by a neighbor, one of whom will actually become a part of this caper.  Two to three weeks after the party ( I still had not worn the ring and had not even looked for it) I received a call from a police detective.  Turned out he was a retired Senior Chief working his second career.  He was tasked with reviewing the pawn shop receipts looking for stolen property.  I had not reported the theft as I had not yet noticed it was missing.  He called because he thought it was odd that a Naval Academy Grad would pawn his class ring.  He just wanted to check with me. Well he was correct and he stopped the sale of the ring and brought it out to me. Turns out the person who tried to pawn it lived two doors down from us and he claimed he found it on the floor of a bar 25 miles away. This was a bar we had never frequented.  The smiling Senior Chief returned with ring with a good bit of “fatherly advice”. I thanked him, and for years after that, I remain in his debt.  Had he not acted on instinct, I would not have a class ring. God Bless the Senior Chief.

Andy Sosnicky '66: In April 2016 my wife and I were visiting Hadrian's Wall, the ancient Roman Empire fortification on the border of England and Scotland.  The wall is at the top of a grassy slope at the end of a gravel path. On the way back down high winds and heavy rain kicked in.  My umbrella inverted and flew out of my hand. I ran after it down the thick wet grass, lost traction slipped and fell twice, but recovered the umbrella.  After returning to the gravel path I noticed my ring was gone.  It obviously slid off my wet finger as I slid along the grass.  I went back for a futile search in the rain, I notified the local attendants at the site, but I was despondent.  It was in deep grass off the beaten path.

I contacted my insurance company and the ring company (Balfour). The ring which cost $180 in 1965 now cost $2200, but it could be replaced. But I knew it was not the "real" ring.

On a bright sunny day weeks later a KLM Airlines pilot was on a short layover before his return flight to Amsterdam.  He visited Hadrian's Wall, noticed a sunny reflection in the distant grass, walked over to it and picked up the ring. Upon his return to Amsterdam, a "miracle" happened. He (1) was honest; (2) was smart enough to realize the significance of a United States Naval Academy ring; (3) was able to make out only the name "Andrew" inscribed inside the ring; (4) and figured out how to contact the Alumni Association. 

I received a call from the Alumni Association. There were six "Andrews" in my class. The rep asked if I had lost my ring. She explained that it was in Amsterdam and gave me the contact information of the pilot. We conversed, and he shipped it back to me immediately.  What were the odds that the necessary steps described above all fell into place? Minimal, I am sure. I was extremely lucky.

CAPT Richard W. Hamon '60, USN (Ret.): About 1971, I was assigned to an A-7 squadron at NAS Cecil Field, FL. I usually put my 1960 Naval Academy ring in the pocket of my g-suit whenever flying.  I did this one day and flew out to the USS Saratoga. 

After trapping aboard (OK 3, I’m certain), my ring wasn’t there due to a hole worn in the pocket. Retracing my steps to the flight deck and to the aircraft, the ring was not found. We communicated with the Ready Room ashore and asked that they initiate a search, also to no avail. 

That aircraft was inducted into a major refurbishment process at the nearby Naval Aircraft Rework Facility, shortly after this incident.  I spoke with the Chief responsible for the Rework and described the loss.  He assured me that they would closely inspect the cockpit. Several weeks later the Chief called to report that no ring had been found. I had to accept that the ring was lost. 

Several months later, while in the Ready Room ashore, in walked an Academy Classmate. He was the Line Officer for the local A-7 training squadron.  The aircraft in question had been reassigned to his squadron when Rework was complete. 

He handed me the missing ring and told me that it had been found under the bed of a local “Ho.” That could have been true, but I didn’t leave it there, and he brought it to me—so what could I say!!

In actual fact, one of his Plane Captains had found the ring in the cockpit of the aircraft cited above. The ring must have been stuck somewhere in the cockpit and, after many flights/landings, dislodged and was found on a preflight inspection!! My ring probably has more flight time than I do.

1931 Ring Returned (by Susan A. Weatherwax Walker): My father, Hazlett Paul Weatherwax, was an avid gardener while living in Washington D.C. in the 50’s. I remember the day he came home from work and was so sad as he said he had lost his Naval Academy ring.  He graduated in 1931, the first young man from the Territory of Hawaii to attend and graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy.

Just a few years ago,  while  living in Gulf Breeze FL, I received a call from the Naval Academy asking me if I was related to Hazlett.  Of course, I said yes he was my father. The person said, “We have your father’s Academy ring”. I could not believe it! The people who were living at our home on Stuyvesant Place NW Washington DC were doing yard work and had come upon the ring. Fortunately, his name was engraved on the inside and fortunately these were honest people.

I am filled with such joy to have his ring back in my possession. We shall see which one of my three boys will want to cherish it as I do.  24 May 2019

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.