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Class ring returned to owner after more than 50 years

Fifty years ago, a teenager lost his class ring while living in Chattanooga, Tenn. During the magic of Christmas, the ring recently was returned to its owner.

In her appraisal of the jewelry in the estate of Warrenton resident Virginia "Ginny" Wilhoit, Thomson jeweler Marie Stephens was surprised to find a man's class ring.

Ms. Stephens said no one in Miss Wilhoit's family knew of the ring, which was from Chattanooga High School, dated 1953. Judging from the dates, Ms. Stephens figured that Miss Wilhoit was at least five years younger than the man who gave her the ring.

"So I'm thinking, 'What in the world?'" Ms. Stephens said. "For some reason she kept it from 1953 until she passed away last year. No one had any clue where it came from."

Searching the internet, Ms. Stephens said she found the high school's Class of 1953 roster, and the owner of the ring - Lundy Lovelace.

"I hadn't thought about that ring in years," Mr. Lovelace said. "So when (Ms. Stephens) called, I thought, 'Now isn't that something?' Then, I started racking my brain trying to remember what her name was... Well, she was a sweet girl, and at that time she was the Georgia State Junior Tumbling Champion."

Mr. Lovelace said he met Miss Wilhoit at a diabetic camp in Sequatchie Valley, Tenn., where he was a camp counselor and she was a camper.

"It was a great summer, and I really enjoyed the camp," he said.

After the camp, Mr. Lovelace said he visited Miss Wilhoit "from time to time" at her home in Atlanta, "and got to know her family real well." He said he also stayed there with four of his friends during Spring Break.

Merrill Callaway, the director of Callaway Funeral Home in Warrenton and executor of Miss Wilhoit's estate, said the Wilhoit family lived in Atlanta during Miss Wilhoit's youth and moved to Warrenton in the 1970's to be with family during her father's bout with cancer. According to Mr. Callaway, Miss Wilhoit had been a diabetic since she was six years old, yet she was very active in athletic events and outdoor activities. Mr. Callaway said he mailed the ring to Mr. Lovelace right before Christmas.

"It was in good shape, and he was very gracious to send it to me. I was pleased to get it," Mr. Lovelace said in a telephone interview. "So since I haven't worn it in 50 years, I've worn it the last two weeks just to get in a little time on it, since we've been departed so long. I don't think I'll be giving it to anybody now. Those days are long gone."

After college, Mr. Lovelace said he served in the military for four years, was a church music director for 26 years, and also retired from Planters Lifesavers in 1999. Since then, he has been "volunteering in everything I could get my hands in and really enjoying life." Mr. Lovelace still lives in Chattanooga, is married and has four children. He said he has enjoyed telling the story of his ring these past few weeks.

"Well, I've run into quite a few people who went to the same high school that I did, and we've laughed about it," he said. "It's been an interesting experience."

Web posted on Thursday, January 11, 2007

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