A Vandalia High School ring that has been missing for approximately a half-century has returned home after a three-state search that involved a local newspaper, a historical society, a college student, and multiple family generations.
The process began in September when college student Josh Fuller sent “The Vandalia Leader” an email regarding a class ring that was found by his grandfather, John Miller, almost 50 years ago in a gravel delivery received in Lansing, Michigan.
The ring was originally issued to Helen Scott, a graduate from the Class of 1931 at Vandalia High School.
Fuller said his grandfather attempted to notify Scott of the discovered ring in 1968 but he ran into some road blocks when trying to get Scott’s newly married name.
The ring was at Miller’s house through the years and he recently told his grandson that he desired for someone in Scott’s family to get the ring as he was always puzzled how it ended up in Lansing, Michigan.
“Grandpa, in this day and age, you can track down anyone,” Fuller reportedly told his grandfather.
Fuller’s email to “The Vandalia Leader” was followed by the local newspaper passing on the information to Charlene Teague, of the Vandalia Area Historical Society.
Teague soon tracked down an email address for Gary Scott, as Teague knew his father and mother, Wayne and Polly Scott, along with knowing Gary and his brother when they were teenagers.
Gary Scott received Teague’s email and contacted his cousin Elaine Scott Haire-Tycocki, who originally received her mother’s class ring as a gift when she started Junior High School in 1957.
Elaine Scott Haire-Tycocki said she treasured the gift and wore it throughout Junior High School. After receiving her own class ring when she entered high school, she attached a lucky rabbit’s foot to her mother’s ring and stored it away for safe keeping.
Unfortunately, the ring eventually disappeared.
“I was heartsick when I realized it was gone,” she said.
“I never told my mother because I felt so bad about losing it and I knew she would be very sad it was gone…When I got that email (from Gary), it was a miracle to me.”
Miller reportedly found the ring when he raked a load of gravel at his home several decades ago and caught the rabbits foot on his rake.
Seeing Helen Scott’s name engraved on the ring, he called Vandalia High School back in the 1960s to try and locate the owner.
The woman he spoke to knew Helen Scott but said she had married and did not know her married name.
He was then told to call Audrain County. Unfortunately, county officials would not give him the married name at the time due to privacy laws.
Reportedly through the years, Miller made more attempts to find Helen Scott or a member of her family so he could return the ring. He even sought the help of those who worked on genealogy projects. He found a gravesite of a Robert Scott in Arizona but no information on the person who was buried there.
Through the email contact, the two parties finally connected and the ring returned home.
“When I finally met John and his wife Judy, I was overjoyed!,” said Elaine Scott Haire-Tycocki. “After all these years of wondering what happened to that ring, when I finally saw it, a host of memories flooded back to me.”
She enjoys reflecting on Miller’s journey to relocate the ring back to her family.
“The fact that all these years he never gave up on finding my mother or some of her family speaks volumes about John Miller’s character.,” she added.
“He could have tossed it, or pawned it, (it is by now an antique and solid gold and onyx) or given it to his kids to play with or done a dozen other things with it, but he didn’t. Instead, he kept on thinking about it and searching and eventually he was able to untangle the mystery. Not many people in this world care that much about someone else’s loss or have his strength of character and fortitude. The Millers are very warm and caring people. There is no way I will ever be able to adequately thank them for their kindness and this truly miraculous gift. When I was telling the story of ‘the ring’ to a friend, her comment was, ‘if you read this in a novel, you would not believe it could happen.’”
“When I think about all those years that John kept on trying to find out how to return my mother’s ring, all the pieces of the puzzle that had to come together. I do wonder, what inspired this process, was (it) my lucky rabbits foot in play, maybe was just plain old fate, or maybe was it my mother, just helping things along in this Holiday Season; this season of miracles? Whatever it was, I know she knows her ring is back with her family and she is happy, and I am so grateful.”
More on Miller
John Miller grew up in Lansing, Michigan and attended St. Mary’s High School before he graduated in 1962.
Miller was employed by the Lansing Board of Water and Light, retiring after 32 years of service.
Along with his wife Judy, he lives in Hubbardston, Michigan, approximately 40 miles from where Elaine Scott-Haire Tycocki currently resides.
“We still have no idea how the ring ended up in that load of gravel,” said Elaine Scott-Hair Tycocki.
“Probably we never will, but I am so thankful my mother’s ring ended up in John Miller’s load of gravel. John is an outstanding man, a kind and thoughtful man. A man who never gives up! I can never thank you enough, John Miller!”