Kelsey waits 42 years to get ring back

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 31, 2010

Mike Kelsey can remember driving down the hill from his home in Media, Pennsylvania “wailing all the way.”

The year was 1968 and he had received greetings from Uncle Sam and was on his way to Vietnam. It was a very trying time.

He had asked his parents not to see him off. He knew it would be an emotional time and he wanted to spare them – and him – of that heart wrenching public goodbye. But, by the time, he reached his sister’s home, he had composed himself.

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He left his badge of honor – a 1962 Chevrolet, four-door hardtop with a 298 V8 engine — in her care.

“I put my Clemson University class ring in the pocket of the car and told her to make sure nothing happened to it,” Kelsey said. Then he headed to Vietnam to serve his country.

When he returned from Vietnam a year later, he was anxious to get behind the wheel of his Chevy. But, to his great disappointment, his car had been stolen and wrecked by a known felon. Boston law enforcement personnel had returned the car to Kelsey’s sister.

“I asked my sister about my Clemson class ring and she said, ‘What ring?’ She didn’t even remember that I said anything about the ring that day,” Kelsey said, perhaps, with a shudder of remembrance of that day of leaving family and home behind.

That was the second time that Kelsey’s class ring had gone missing. The first was while he was stationed at Fort Rucker prior to leaving for the war zone.

“Someone found it that time and got it back to me but I knew, this time, I would never see that ring again,” Kelsey said.

Knowing how much that ring meant to Kelsey, his wife, Dinah, got in touch with the Clemson University Alumni Association in 1988 and ordered him a replacement ring.

“The new ring cost $350 and Mike had only paid $35 in 1965,” Dinah Kelsey said, laughing.

The new class ring brought some measure of consolation to Kelsey and he greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness of his wife. Although the ring was a perfect fit, it didn’t quite fill the void left by the one that was “earned” with four years of blood, sweat and tears and by burning the midnight oil.

As fate would have it, when the ring was all but forgotten, a call came from the Clemson University Alumni Association.

“The lady on the phone said a Clemson class ring had been found that might be mine,” Kelsey said.

The ring had been found in Boston. Kelsey told the caller that Bean Town is where his sister was living at the time his car was stolen four decades ago.

“She asked me about the inscription inside the ring. I gave her my first name, initial and last name. She asked me what else. I couldn’t remember. It had been 42 years.”

The caller asked Kelsey what “Media” meant to him.

“I told her that was Media, Pennsylvania where I lived for four years and went to high school, he said. “They couldn’t read the Pennsylvania so they couldn’t understand ‘Media.’ Finally, she was satisfied that the ring was mine.”

The caller said the ring would be sent to the association and on to Kelsey. However, a couple of weeks passed and no ring.

“Then, I got a call from a man, Brian Scanlon in West Dennis, Massachusetts. He said his grandfather, who was a Boston police officer, had died,” Kelsey said. “As he was going through his grandfather’s box of assorted items, he found a 1965 Clemson University class ring. He contacted the university’s alumni association. They investigated and that’s how he got my name and address.”

Scanlon told Kelsey that he wanted to return the ring to him.

“I offered to pay him but he said he didn’t want anything,” Kelsey said. “But I wanted to pay him something because the ring means a lot to me. But he wouldn’t even let me cover the shipping charges as small as they were.”

Kelsey said he knows nothing more than what he was told about the missing class ring. He doesn’t know why or how the ring was in the possession of the Boston police office and that doesn’t matter in the least.

All that matters is that the ring is back in Kelsey’s possession. Not on his finger though. It won’t fit.

The 1965 class ring is smaller than its replacement ring but both have equal sentimental value. One is just as special as the other.

One represents the accomplishments of 45 years ago and, the other, the love and caring of his wife.

Kelsey said he can’t explain the feeling of having something of such great sentimental value returned to him after all those years. But he hopes that those two rings will have special meaing for his sons, Rick and Jeff.

“I’ve got two sons and, when I’m gone, I want them to have the rings,” he said, adding with a smile. “But until then, they’re mine.”