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Judy Lewis wears the ring. Lewis worked to find the owner of a class ring for more than five decades.

PHOTOS BY MIKE JAMES | CNHI NEWS SERVICE

OLIVE HILL Evelyn Lewis was walking through the parking lot of the James Drive-In one warm night in 1965 when a flash of red and gold caught her eye.

She looked down and there, winking at her in the neon light, was a ring. She picked it up and saw it was a class ring from Olive Hill High School, where she had been a student herself just a few years previously.

The ring’s engraving showed it belonged to someone from the class of 1961. Looking closely at the inside she could see the owner’s initials were DLG.

She asked the crowd of teenagers sipping Cokes – did they know anyone with the initials DLG? Nope.

She asked around town. Nobody knew. So she slipped the ring on her own finger, not having one of her own, and wore it for a while. Then she put it in a box and tucked it away.

It sat in the box for 40 years, until Lewis – long since married and named Evelyn Holland – moved to Tennessee. She gave the ring to her niece, Marcella Lewis.

Marcella Lewis thought she might be able to reunite it with its owner and called radio stations, the Carter County Board of Education and the Olive Hill Historical Society. She ran an ad in The Daily Independent.

“She’s a determined woman,” said Judy Lewis, who is Marcella’s sister and who now has custody of the ring. “She really wanted to get it back to its owner.”

However, they got no replies.

About three years ago, Marcella mentioned the ring to Judy. They discussed it for a while and talked about resuming the search for the owner. Judy said she would try. But family matters intervened; their mother’s health deteriorated and she died last August. The sisters had other things to think about and the ring remained in its little gold box.

A couple of weeks ago, Judy Lewis opened a bureau drawer and – like her aunt before her – saw a flash of color. Time to try again, she told herself.

So she did. This time, she had tools her sister had not had 15 years earlier – the internet and social media.

She went to her computer and posted a notice on a Facebook page – Memories of Olive Hill. It was 3:14 p.m. March 8, according to the time stamp on the post.

Half an hour later the post had been shared 85 times and a commenter replied with the long-lost identity – Dorothy Louise Gilliam. The ring had belonged to Dorothy Louise Gilliam, Olive Hill High School class of 1961.

Gilliam’s daughter, Lori Buckler, sent a message a little before 8 p.m.; they talked for a while and made arrangements to deliver the ring.

Buckler had never known her mother ever had a ring or that it had gone missing. “I just think it’s amazing someone found the ring 55 years ago and that we are going to see it now,” she said. “It’s great. You always want to have something that belonged to your parents.”

Her mother became a nurse, moved to Mansfield, Ohio and died years ago. She would have been delighted to get the ring back, Buckler said. Her mother’s sister Ethel was excited to hear the news and so were her siblings, a brother and two sisters. They all told her to keep the ring. She plans to have it cleaned and then wear it.

She is grateful to the Lewises for their decades-long dedication to getting the ring back to its rightful owner. “I think it’s wonderful that they wanted to give it back to the family,” she said.

“It’s been 55 years since my auntie found it, and it’s finally going to find its way home,” Judy Lewis said.

Judy caller her sister to tell her the story and they shed a few tears together, because they understand a class ring is a treasured talisman holding in its jeweled depths the essence of high school memories in a small town.

“I still have mine,” Judy said. “Mine is put away and I know exactly where it is, and I like to pick it up and look at it.”

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