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Henry Thomas 'Buddy' Banks has been reunited with his Caroline High School class ring, which didn't even make it to college with him. 'I lost it right after I got it,' says the Richmond resident, a retired newspaperman.
The class ring is in great shape in spite of being lost for more than
BY EDIE GROSS
James Gilbreath often walks with his eyes on the dirt
On the 96-acre spread in Texas where he spends his winters, it's a great way to spot arrowheads--and to keep from stepping on snakes.
Gilbreath, a retired U.S. Marine and electrician who lives part of the year in Spotsylvania County, was eyeing the ground in Caroline County about 10 years ago when he spotted something metallic.
He'd been working on a renovation project at a house near the old Port Royal Masonic Lodge, and on his lunch break had wandered over to a nearby lot where a home had been bulldozed.
Pushing at the loosened dirt with his shoe, he spotted the remains of a flintlock pistol and, about 10 feet from that, a man's high school class ring.
He cleaned up the pistol and put it away, figuring he'd give it to a museum someday. He wasn't sure what to do with the ring, so he tucked it carefully into a drawer with other odds and ends he'd collected over the years.
Recently, Gilbreath spotted an article in The Free Lance-Star about someone who was reunited with a long-lost class ring, and it reminded him of the ring he'd found in the dirt that day so long ago.
He brought the ring to the newspaper to see if employees could locate its owner.
"I thought: 'Well, what the heck. If the guy can get his ring back, that's great,'" said Gilbreath.
Assistant Managing Editor Betty Hayden Snider, a Caroline native, was the first to get a look at the ring, which had a large red stone set in its center and "Caroline High School" and "1960" engraved on its sides.
Snider turned to Advertising Operations Manager Elaine Satterfield for help.
Satterfield's own beloved class ring had been stolen years ago when her home was burglarized, and Snider initially hoped this ring belonged to her.
But that wasn't the case. First, it was a man's ring.
Second, Satterfield, who grew up in Caroline County as Elaine Gatewood, graduated from C.T. Smith High School in 1966, so the information on the ring didn't match.
Besides, on the inside of the ring, faint but still legible, were the initials HTB.
Satterfield's sister, Yvonne Sale, was a 1960 C.T. Smith grad, but she'd had friends at Caroline High. So Satterfield called Sale, who works at the Ladysmith branch of Caroline Library.
"If you need to know anything going on in Ladysmith or down in Caroline, you just call her and she'll find out," Satterfield said, laughing.
Sure enough, Sale thought she knew someone who might be able to help.
She called longtime friend Sandra Acors, who graduated from Caroline High School as Sandra Wilkerson.
"Yvonne called me and said: 'I know you went to Caroline High. What year did you graduate?' I said, '1960,'" said Acors. "She said, 'That's what's on this ring,' and I said, 'What ring?'"
Sale filled her in and mentioned the initials on the inside of the ring.
"I said, 'I'm almost positive I know who it was,'" said Acors. "We only had but 30 kids in the class, so everybody knew everybody."
She couldn't find her yearbook, but she still had the commencement program from 1960, which listed all the grads. Using the initials, she verified her hunch: The likely owner was classmate Henry Thomas Banks, who'd always gone by the nickname "Buddy."
She found several numbers for him on the Internet, picked the one that felt right and passed it on to Satterfield.
Satterfield called Banks, who lives in Richmond and is retired from the Richmond Times-Dispatch. As they talked, they realized they knew a lot of the same people in the newspaper industry.
"It just got to be such a small-world type thing," said Satterfield.
Banks was stunned to hear that someone had found his ring.
"I lost it right after I got it," he said.
In other words, he hadn't seen it in 52 years.
He couldn't recall precisely how he lost it. But it wasn't uncommon for him to tuck it into his pocket while he played pickup basketball games with friends, so it could've fallen out then, he said.
How it ended up in the dirt in Port Royal is anyone's guess.
He said he didn't lose too much sleep over it.
"Once I went to the University of Richmond, I knew I'd get a college ring so I wasn't worried about it."
Banks said he's amazed that the ring turned up after all these years, though he has no plans to wear it.
"I can't get it on my finger. I was a helluva lot smaller when I was in high school," he said. "It's sitting on my chest of drawers in a place of honor. It's brought back some great memories."
Gilbreath said he was thrilled the ring's 52-year journey ended with the rightful owner.
"Isn't that something? He loses a ring in the '60s and some old boy from Texas finds it in the 2000s," he said. "I was just down there messing around. I'm glad that guy got his ring back."
Edie Gross: 540/374-5428