Administrative school secretary Kate White found herself with an unusual request Monday that piqued her interest in a 58-year-old missing class ring.
Shirley Smith of South Windsor called Wilcox Regional Technical High School that morning asking if the school still had a copy of the 1962 yearbook. She wanted to track down the owner of a class ring she found with the initials JJ.
Meanwhile, Joseph Jakiela of Wallingford had recently driven by the site of a former movie theater on Route 5 and wondered if anyone ever found the class ring his girlfriend lost in the theater just weeks after he gave it to her.
Smith discovered the 1962 ring in an old box while cleaning her attic over the weekend. The box was in the rear of the attic and was so old it fell apart when she lifted it. It had been in the attic for more than 30 years, she said.
White told Smith the school didn’t have the yearbook, but she was certain the Meriden Public Library would have a copy. White called reference librarian Barbara Belejack, who found the yearbook and emailed a page with the name and picture of Jakiela who graduated from the school’s carpentry program in 1962.
White learned Jakiela still lived in Wallingford and a colleague helped her get a phone number. She reached out to Jakiela, who hadn’t seen his class ring in 58 years and interviewed him briefly. Being fairly certain she had the right owner, White set up an e-mail exchange between Jakiela and Smith.
On Wednesday, Smith returned the ring to Jakiela in the Wilcox front hallway while school faculty and security applauded. Jakiela had been a member of the first class to graduate from the Oregon Road building and was thrilled to get his ring back.
“People didn’t believe it when I told them,” Jakiela said.
He only had the ring for several days when he gave it to his girlfriend who he later married. The couple went on to have children together. “I used to tease their mother about losing the ring,” he said.
Smith didn’t know how the ring got into the box that found its way into her attic, but she was glad to return it to its rightful owner.
“I couldn’t not find out who owned it,” Smith said. “How it got into the attic? I have no idea.”
“Three weeks ago it popped into my head when I drove by and wondered if anyone is going to find that ring,” Jakiela said.
Smith gift-wrapped the ring as she presented it to Jakiela.
“Last time I got a ring from a lady, I had to marry her,” he joked as he unwrapped the small package.
“I assure you that’s not the case today,” Smith replied.
White was happy to help untangle the mystery and be a part of the recovery to its rightful owner.
“It’s a good news story,” White said.