Lost ring from 2000 found 14 years later

Published 6:45 pm Friday, March 28, 2014

_DSC4661Leann Ruff’s parents bought her a high school ring when she was a Polk County High School junior. Before she graduated in 2000, the ring, inscribed with her signature and other meaningful work, was gone seemingly forever. That is, until this past St. Patrick’s Day March 17.
By then she’d married. Her last name is now Wilson, and she has been a fourth-grade teacher at Polk Central Elementary for five years.
When she first got the ring, “I was a junior in high school, and I was dating the pitcher of the (Polk County High school) varsity (baseball) team,” recalled Wilson. “We had our rings about a week, and he just put it (her ring) in his bat bag. I had his ring on my necklace, so I didn’t lose his. He lost it in the first week.” “I knew I’d never see it again” Wilson recalled. “I didn’t even know what field it was on. I’d never had a high school ring. My parents bought it for me.”
Because Wilson was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, her ring was engraved with a bible and cross, in addition to the replica of her signature. For some fourteen years, the ring was merely history.
“I was at school (teaching) on Monday the 17 (of this March),” when the message light of her school room phone began blinking, indicating a message for her. She figured it was simply another routine call.
“I’m expecting a parent message about how somebody (a student) is going to get home that day,” a fairly common occurrence. Instead, the message was from “this man (Kevin Poteat) I’d never heard of in my life.”
“He said, ‘Leann, this is Kevin. I found something that belongs to you, on a ball field, with my metal detector. Give me a call.” He left his phone number.
During her lunch break, she phoned him, still thinking that this man had found something belonging to another person. On the phone, he told her he’d found her ring,
All he’d been able to decipher on the ring was the last name, “Ruff.” He’d first called Polk County High School, thinking it might belong to a current or recent student.
At the high school, someone found her name, and told Poteat to call Sunny View Elementary School, because PCHS records indicated that she taught there (At one time, she had.).
“They (the staff at Sunny View) thought he was calling about Julie Wilson,” Wilson said.
But, she was absent, and Poteat called her at her home. “She (Julie Wilson) told him that  I was the one he wanted, and where I taught.”
When Wilson posted this scenario on Facebook, Kevin’s friends informed her that this (contacting her about her long-lost ring) wouldn’t even be the nicest thing he would do that week.
“This (ring) is white gold,” emphasized Leann Wilson. “He could have had it melted down.” Amazingly, “he told me that the ball field he found it on was the ball field at Polk Central, where I’ve been teaching for five years. How many times have I walked over the top of that ring?” she wondered in awe.
After fourteen years, a cherished part of her past came back in a hurry. “I met him that afternoon (this past March 17), and got it back.”
Prior to that, Poteat had e-mailed a photograph of the ring to her.  “When I saw the photo, I knew.”
After Wilson and Poteat (a teacher in Rutherford County) met in Forest City, N.C. and she became re-united with her ring, she had a passing thought– wanting to phone her ex-boyfriend and say, “Look what found me.” She then thought better of it.
How did the ring land in the ball field at Polk Central, when he played for the high school? Having lived nearby at the time, “He probably went to the nearest field to hit balls,” figures Wilson.
Handling the ring “took me back fourteen years, to think about fourteen years, and all I had done.”
Poteat told Wison that her ring was some three inches in the ground when his metal detector located it.
At first, he figured that the owner had lost the ring in the past year or so.
Back in high school, when she and her former boyfriend dated, recalled Wilson, she managed the baseball team, and he played. “I didn’t fit in high school,” she remembers.
“I was not in a clique. It (getting back the ring) took me back to good memories of high school. I loved baseball.”
Thoughts of calling her former boyfriend passed but she did want to make one call. “I couldn’t wait to call my mom. She thought I was kidding.” Wilson is grateful to Poteat for his honesty and his persistence.
“I don’t know many people these days who would go to all that trouble. He was excited.”
‘“I’m tickled pink for you,’” Poteat told her when he gave Wilson her ring. “Or, rather green (because it was St. Patrick’s Day).”
Poteat even cleaned the ring before returning it. “I think it was his first rescue and recovery,” Wilson said. “His friends said that’s the kind of guy he is.”
What about Wilson’s former boyfriend’s high school ring? “I gave it back to him when we broke up.” As for her newly-found treasure, “It’s in good shape. You can still see my signature. My kids (students) were excited. They thought it was the coolest thing.” Like many of us, Wilson admits, “I look for things and can’t find them. It drives me crazy. For something to find me, it’s so surreal.”

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