Her name was Becky Lee, Rock Hill High School class of 1959.
His name is David Paxton, an electrical engineer from a tiny burg in western Ohio called LaFayette, who went scuba diving in Florida's Weeki Wachee Springs in 1979.
They never met. But their lives intertwined, unknowingly, for 29 years. A Rock Hill High 1959 ladies class ring, gold with a ruby-colored stone that Paxton found in 2 feet of water in the place famous for manatees and mermaid shows, bound them.
Paxton kept the ring in a box with lapel pins and other stuff, then for years kept it in his medicine cabinet. The ring with the initials "R.A.L." scripted inside. He wondered who R.A.L. was. It was a girl's ring. It fit on his pinkie. The stone was maybe a garnet.
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Finally, Paxton sent an e-mail to this newspaper explaining what he had. I immediately dropped all I was doing and called Paxton.
"For years, I didn't even know what state I was looking for, where Rock Hill and the Bearcats were," Paxton said. "But along comes the Internet. I figured it out."
Paxton said he called the school twice but didn't find anything out. He made one point clear: "I want no reward. I'm no treasure hunter. The lady was probably looking for it, maybe since 1959. I just want her or her loved ones to get her ring back."
At the York County Library, untouched maybe for decades on the second floor in the reference section under "local history," is the 1959 Bearcat yearbook. Inside in the senior photos were 10 people out of a class of 260 with a last name starting with L. But no R.A.L.
Wait. Old-style yearbooks had formal senior listings in the back. The name "Rebecca Ann Lee" jumped off the second to last page like a lion grabbing a gazelle's throat. Her nickname was "Becky."
Homeroom club, vice president, president, secretary. Student Council one year, Glee Club two years, senior drama her last year. Becky Lee in the senior pictures, described as "frank" and "fun loving."
Joyce Baker, who has helped organize a monthly meeting of many of the ladies of the class of 1959 for more years than she cares to admit, said Becky Lee, Rebecca Ann Lee, was the only "R.A.L." in that class.
"I've kept everything on every member of our class," Baker said. "Pictures, clippings from the newspaper, announcements. I never saw her once after high school."
Ronnie Plexico was Rock Hill High class president in 1959.
"Becky Lee, great gal," Plexico said. "We never could find her for all the reunions. Unfortunately, we did find out about three years ago Becky had passed. Call Doyle Tipton, he knew her. He had a crush on her, if I recall."
"A beauty," said classmate Doyle Tipton of R.A.L., Becky Lee. Tipton was the guy who had found out through Internet searching that Becky had died and broke the news to his classmates. "We were sweethearts before I ran off and joined the service and got married. I never saw her again."
Arnold Couick, another classmate, had the phone number for Dewey Orr of Easley. He said Dewey Orr was Becky Lee Orr's widower.
Rebecca Ann Lee Orr died at age 62 in August 2003 after fighting cancer, Dewey Orr said over the telephone. She was born in Greenville County, daughter of a Jehovah's Witness minister who came to Rock Hill during Becky's school years. The younger of two daughters, Becky left Rock Hill soon after high school. Becky was married once and had a daughter named Sabrina before marrying Orr in 1993.
But wait, Dewey Orr said -- "You called about the ring."
He remembered that Becky mentioned, just in passing one time, that she lost her class ring.
"Seems she may have said it might have been lost on a trip to Myrtle Beach right after high school," he said.
Orr paused a second or two.
"But, wait a minute," he said. "Didn't you say the ring was found in Florida?"
I said yes, the guy who has the ring was scuba diving at Weeki Wachee when he found it.
"Is that anywhere near Tampa?" Orr asked.
I said yes, it was.
"Well, wait a minute. I know she lost her ring. She lived right there near Tampa, when she was married to her first husband. She must have lost it there. She sure would have gone there. Her initials were R.A.L."
Orr said Becky's daughter, Sabrina, lives in Montana. He wants Sabrina to have Becky's ring.
"She's an artist, I bet she would love to have that ring of her mother's," Orr said. "Becky was able to get to Montana to see her just-born grandson before she died. He was 3 months old."
Back in LaFayette, nicknamed "Patriot City USA," David Paxton, Navy Vietnam War veteran who never gave up looking for R.A.L. for 29 years and even tried the ring on his pinkie, was thrilled.
"That ring means more to that family than any money I would ever get for it," Paxton said. "I hope it brings back a memory for them. Is this what we call a happy ending?"