August 31, 2013

Ring returns after 6 decades

Jessica Lane, Staff Writer,
The Express-Star


An 85-year-old woman will be reunited with her Chickasha High School class ring after it was flushed down the toilet in 1947.

The ring was retrieved by a sewer line cleaning crew in Stillwater, where Lodema Correia said the ring was lost. 

She met her first husband, Eddie Correia, at Chickasha High School. Eddie was three years older, Lodema said. He left for the Navy and when he came back Lodema had just graduated. The couple then moved to Stillwater. 

She said she thinks the ring was on the back of the toilet and her husband mistakenly knocked it into the bowl. 

Almost seven decades later, Charlie Yeats, a member of the cleaning crew, saw something shiny in the debris. Yeats picked the ring out and took it to Don Bishop with the City of Stillwater.

At first glance, Bishop said the crew thought it said 1996. They were surprised to find they were off a few decades. They identified it as a Chickasha High School class ring. They looked inside the ring and saw the initials L.N. Lodema's maiden name is Noland. 

Angela Widener, Chickasha High School librarian, said she received a call from Bishop. 

Widener then went through the school's archival books and found a program for the class of 1946 and searched for someone with the initials L.N. She discovered that  Lodema was a very involved student.  Eventually she tracked Lodema down with the help of Chickasha High School principal, Beth Edwards who knew a retired optometrist who graduated the same year. He knew that Lodema lived in northern Oklahoma City. 

Lodema said she was surprised when she received the call from Widener. 

"When she asked me 'Did you lose your class ring?' It stopped me dead in my tracks," Lodema said. 

"No telling how far it had gone. For them to say that they found it was just amazing," Lodema said.

Bishop said that this is not the first item the crew has uncovered in returned. Some items—in one case a lump of gold—are uncovered but can't be traced back to a specific owner. However, Bishop said that flash-drives have been found, taken apart and cleaned and returned to an owner via data found on the flash-drive. 

"It's something fun to do," Bishop said. "These guys work hard and make an effort to help others."

As the ring has been unearthed, so have happy memories of high school and being involved in education. She was involved in the pep club, a cheerleader and received a cup for "Best All Around Girl."  

"I had a very good high school career. I loved Chickasha schools. It was a very important time for me," she said. 

Lodema continued her education after high school, eventually receiving her Ph.D. in Higher Student Learning Personnel. She has had a variety of careers in education. She has taught a variety of classes, from English to psychology.  She said that one of her more rewarding endeavors was counseling nontraditional students attending college without a high school diploma. 

Lodema said she is touched that so much effort went in to tracking her down. 

"It almost brings tears to my eyes to think that they found it and decided to try and find who owned it," she said. 

"They could have just put in on their finger or taken it home to their kids to play with," Lodema says with a laugh. 

Lodema has two children: Eddie Correia, a lawyer and tenured professor in Boston and her daughter, Pamela Fischer, who is a psychologist at a veteran's hospital. 

There's little chance the ring will be casually left in the bathroom again.

"It will be something that I will cherish."