By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Delano resident Neil Ramlow’s lost and found story has a familiar “ring” to it.
Well, actually, it’s two rings and a bracelet.
The jewelry had been lost for 40 years, and Ramlow was recently able to reunite the pieces with their owners.
Ramlow found the keepsakes back in 1972, after the devastating flood in Rapid City, SD. He was employed at a mobile home salvage/restoration company based in Rockford, and had been instructed to work on a home slated for demolition.
“While shoveling mud, I found a small box on the floor,” Ramlow recalled.
Inside the box, he discovered two class rings (a man’s and a woman’s), and a man’s bracelet engraved with the name “John.”
The flood had killed more than 200 people, and Ramlow had no way of knowing if the couple was still alive.
“I showed the rings to my employer and to my workmates, and let them know I would find the owners,” Ramlow noted. “Some said, ‘Good for you; that’s the right thing to do, kid.’ Others said, ‘Why bother? They’re probably dead from the flood.’”
Over the next few decades, Ramlow made several unsuccessful attempts to locate the owners. Although he often got no response from places he contacted, Ramlow never gave up hope.
His breakthrough finally came in November 2012.
“I was talking to a lady from Iowa, and she had the idea of contacting South Dakota Magazine,” Ramlow recalled.
He sent an e-mail to the magazine’s assistant marketing director, Laura Andrews, who put him in touch with Stephanie Bents from the Rapid City Public Library.
Bents gave library associate Leanna Bussell the task of figuring out the owners based on the information on the rings, both of which featured a “Rapid City High School” engraving. The man’s had the initials “JR” with a 1967 date, and the woman’s said “VM” with a date of 1968.
Bussell found only one woman in the 1968 Rapid City High School yearbook with the initials VM Vesper Matson.
Her name is now Vesper Wright, and Bussell was able to contact Wright through a mutual friend.
Two weeks before Christmas, Wright was reunited with her long lost class ring.
“I was ecstatic to have something from the past that you thought was completely lost, and then it’s there,” she told the Rapid City Journal.
In recognition of Ramlow’s efforts, the mayor of Rapid City sent Ramlow a medal and a letter of appreciation.
“It means a lot to me,” Ramlow said.
Soon after, the man’s ring and bracelet were mailed to owner John Rau, who now lives in Tucson, AZ.
Rau’s wife, Joan, said receiving the jewelry was a special moment for her husband, who is very ill.
“I can’t possibly thank you enough for bringing him such joy,” Joan wrote in an e-mail to Ramlow. “You can’t even imagine how happy he was to learn that his treasured ring had been found, and that he’d be getting it back . . . He attended two high schools, and had the ring custom-made to represent both. He was devastated when it was lost, because it is one-of-a-kind.”