Dennis Keith Harper – called “Kenny” almost all his life, who drives an electrical supply truck and has an 8-year-old daughter – never had a chance over the past two decades to give his class ring to his wife, Lynn, who has been called “Wendy” almost all her life.
“I lost the ring,” said Harper, 48, who graduated with the York class of 1981. “Twice.”
Harper paid for the ring by working weekends at a supermarket while in high school. It was real gold, with a big stone in it.
“Cost a hundred and seventy bucks back then – that was good chunk of change,” Harper recalled. “Big ring, my initials on it and everything.”
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See, one girlfriend in high school – remember Harper is a guy from a time when guys gave their class rings to their girlfriends – had the ring about a year until the girl gave it back.
Harper then did what young guys have always done – he tried to find another girl to give it to. The next girlfriend had the ring for about three years, and it was thought to be lost until she found it behind a dresser and gave it back to Harper.
“Then one night,” Harper said, “I was up at Winthrop Lake, looking at the scenery, and it must have fell outta my pocket.”
For anybody who doesn’t know, “the scenery” at Winthrop Lake – for a young, unmarried guy in those days – meant college coeds.
Harper went on with his life of work and being a terrific guy, and later he was lucky enough to marry Wendy, who was four years behind him in school in York. Wendy now teaches third graders at Kinard Elementary School in Clover.
“We thought that ring was just gone and that was it,” Wendy Harper said.
Then, out of the blue, this week, Wendy and Kenny received a call from a lady working in the library at York Comprehensive High School, who was in school between them all those years ago.
Some guy had called the school, claiming to have found a ring with the initials “D.K.H.” and the nickname “Kenny” and the name “York High School” and a green dragon on it.
That lady at the school knew the Harpers and called them.
“We just could not believe it,” Wendy said.
Hobbyist struck gold
The man who found the ring wasn’t even looking for it. He was just poking around.
Jim Doncaster of Charlotte, part of the mouthful called the South Carolina Metal Detector and Relic Association – a club of metal detecting hobbyists based in Rock Hill – found it while killing time waiting for the club’s monthly meeting at Trinity Bible Church near the lake.
“I found it in November, about 30 feet from the water line, down a couple of inches, after getting a great signal on something,” Doncaster said. “I started searching online, but finally this week, I called the school and told them what I had found and maybe they could look through old annuals and see who it might belong to. The school was very helpful.”
Doncaster and the other members of the metal detecting group take great pride in not just finding great stuff, but reuniting somebody who lost something with a part of the past.
“The greatest part of this is not me finding it, it is somebody getting it back – reconnecting,” said Doncaster. “We aren’t in it for any money. We find history.”
Early next month, at the club’s meeting in Rock Hill, Doncaster is going to give the ring back to the Harpers. Both Kenny and Wendy Harper were so thankful, overjoyed, that a stranger would not just find the ring, but take the time to find them so the ring could eventually find its way back where it belongs.
“He didn’t have to do it, but he did,” Kenny Harper said of Doncaster’s generosity. “Shows there are good people left in the world.”
And because Kenny Harper is a guy – and has lost the ring twice before – Wendy will be in charge of the ring’s safekeeping from now on.