United States

Texas Man's Wardog Class Ring Returned After 52 years

A Miami High School 1966 Wardog class ring with a sparkling blue stone tucked away in a safe deposit box for 52 years was returned to the Wardog who wore it proudly for a brief time.

The ring was placed back in the hands of Robert O. Choate, now of Nacogdoches, Texas, through the efforts of many including Miami Public Library's Barbara Becker. The ring was worn on the Miami High School alumni's finger for the last time in July 1966.

Choate got the class ring in April 1966 in high school and inadvertently left the ring by a sink while washing his hands at a Kansas City, Kansas doctor's office. By the time Choate reached the parking lot and noticed it missing from his finger, it was gone when he went back to search for the ring.

"He was working up there after he graduated in the summer of `66, and got hurt on the job and went to the doctor," Becker told The Miami News-Record . "That was the last he saw it."

Choate wrote the ring off as a loss, even purchased a replica replacement in years later. After graduation from MHS, he attended Northeastern A&M College before joining and serving in the military, receiving his doctorate from Mississippi State and becoming a successful pediatrics licensed professional counselor.

In the meantime, the class ring with the initials "ROC" had been found in the grass at a football stadium in the fall of 1966 by then 17-year-old Janet Critchfield and her father while sitting in the bleachers at a football game at Ruskin High School in Kansas City.

There is no knowledge of how the ring came to rest in the grass of the Kansas City football stadium.

Critchfield's father put the ring away in his safe deposit box where it had remained for all these years. While sorting through her father's belongings after his death in June, Critchfield again discovered the Wardog class ring with an attached handwritten note written by her father.

Critchfield began a quest to return the ring to the Wardog who had lost it so many years ago.

Critchfield is a genealogy enthusiast and using her acquired skills, called the Miami Public Library where she made contact with the library's genealogist Barbara Becker.

"You know Miami's the only team in the whole United States that's called the Wardogs, so Janet called me," Becker said.

Becker has years of genealogy experience and expertise and has taught classes at the Miami Public Library to hundreds of students. One of her students, Lynda Roten who meets with a genealogy group at the library, heard the ring's story from Becker and contacted a friend Carolyn Matthews, also a MHS 1966 graduate.

Roten and Matthews were able to narrow down three MHS 1966 graduates with the initials of ROC, eventually down to Choate whom they contacted about his recovered ring.

"Carolyn and Bob remained friends and in contact over the years, and he was a friend of hers on Facebook and she sent him a private message to call me about the ring, and he did," Roten said.

Choate and the others made arrangements to meet at the Miami Public Library.

On Sept. 15 Choate and his wife, Teri, traveled to Miami from Mississippi to meet all involved in the recovery of the class ring, including Critchfield.

Critchfield stopped in Miami that day to return the ring and meet Choate while on a trip to Missouri to see family from her home in Vancouver, Washington.

"He was thrilled to get the ring back. He even remembered what he paid for it, I think he said it was $65," Becker said.

Choate had last been in Miami for his MHS class reunion two years ago.

The meeting place was a perfect full circle location to bring all involved together because growing up, Choate had a strong connection with spending time at the Miami Public Library, and the genealogists involved were able to see the importance and fruition of their dedicated work.

Becker said the library offers many services and opportunities for valuable genealogy and historical research.

"He made a special trip," Becker said. "He said the library was kind of his sanctum and meant a lot to him as he was growing up. He said he read over 3,000 books out of this library. It's just one of those things that was meant to be."

With his wife Teri beside him wearing his sparkling 1966 Wardog class ring, Choate was also able to give his wife a tour of his hometown. The Wardog and his ring united once again in Miami.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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