BREMEN — There’s a basic rule in life that if you find a high school class ring, you accept it as an invitation to solve a mystery.
After all, class rings are usually a person’s first autobiography: All of your worldly accomplishments displayed on one small circular piece of metal. Your initials represent the person you were then.
There’s the year you graduated from high school. Then the name of your school, check. Your birthstone typically is displayed prominently so everyone knows when you were born. If you played on a sports team, it’s there. Extra-curricular activities, been there, done that — check, check.
So when Verl Miller of 2B Road, east of Bremen, found a class ring on his farm, he knew it needed to be returned to its rightful owner. Miller raises deer on his farm but it used to be planted with corn and beans. He knew the previous owner, but he also knew that several people farmed the land over the years.
Miller, an Amish man who doesn’t have immediate access to the Internet for an easy online search, gave the ring to a Bremen police officer, Brad Kile. Kile graduated in the class of 1986 from Bremen. Since he had friends from the class of 1982, Kile handed it off to one of them, Robb Jones.
Robb Jones took the mystery from there. The initials were on it were “T.H.”
“Piece of cake,” Jones said, then he looked in the yearbook. How many kids could possibly have had those initials?
Incredibly, Jones found, eight kids had the initials, “T.H.” He ruled out Tammy Hunsberger because the ring was a man’s ring.
And so, Jones narrowed down the field to these possibilities: Tim Hand, Tod Hardy, Todd Hawkins, Troy Heckaman, Tim Hendricks, Tim Hershberger, Todd Huffman. Wait, he paused, did Tad Hepler or Troy Holmes, both a grade behind him, start out in his class? “Nahh,” he said, “Holmes was too smart to be held back and he’s now the athletic director at Bremen High School,” Jones said. If Holmes lost a class ring, he would’ve replaced it by now.”
Most of these guys were his friends, Jones said, which added an element of fun to the exercise. Looking closer at the ring, Jones saw it had a “hockey” emblem on it. Hockey? Bremen doesn’t have a hockey team. However, being from a small town, he knew that Tim Hendricks and Tod Hardy both liked hockey. Hardy, in fact, played hockey at Penn High School because Bremen didn’t have a team. And since Tim Hendricks had moved away before graduating, Jones figured his first phone call would be to Tod Hardy.
Bingo. Nailed it.
Hardy was shocked, and happy, to hear from his friend, Jones.
“Yup,” he said. He lost his class ring even before his senior year and had no idea where it had gone. He didn’t remember giving it to a girl and he didn’t remember losing it, he just remembers that there came a day when he noticed he no longer had it. “I didn’t have a clue,” he said.
When it was returned Hardy said: “I think this is so cool.” He added when looking at his old ring: “Look how dirty it is.”
Well, yeah, it’s been in a farm field for more than 30 years. He used to drive a tractor on that land.
Instead of wearing it now, Hardy said, grinning, he might ask his girlfriend of four years, Deb Kiefer, if she wants to go steady.