WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A Kansas man’s passion for metal detecting has led him to an unlikely discovery.
“Some people like to hunt Civil War memorabilia, and some people like to hunt coins, and some like to hunt rings. I like to hunt whatever I can find,” said Ralph Rinke.
Rinke, 69, started digging for histroy several decades ago.
“It’s not about the value. I have never sold anything I have every found,” Rinke said. “It’s just the hunt. The thrill of the hunt.”
Rinke was especially thrilled by what he found in early February while metal detecting at the demolition site of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita.
“I think I was here seven times, and I found silver half dollars, probably 20 silver dimes, six or eight different rings, silver and turqouise and, of course, the one class ring,” he said.
The class ring was dated 1986. It had the name Penny Cole engraved on it.
Rinke immediately told his daughter Jennifer about his find. Jennifer the posted a photo of the class ring on Facebook.
“Within the same day, she had located the girl,” Rinke said.
“I got a message from one of my friends from high school, and she messaged me on messenger and she said, ‘I think this is you,'” explained Penny Cole. “I am like oh my God that is my ring. That is me!”
Cole, 51, graduated from Hutchinson in 1986. She attended an outdoor concert at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium a couple of months after graduation.
“We had blankets out. Everybody was sitting on it. It was so hot that day. I took my rings off and my watch, and I managed to find one ring and my watch, but I didn’t find my class ring and I was heartbroken,” Cole said.
Cole, who now lives in Wisconsin, immediately responded to Jennifer’s Facebook post. Rinke contacted her and a few days later. Cole was reunited with her class ring.
“He mailed it back to me. It was the neatest thing,” Cole said. “I was just amazed. I was grateful. I kind of teared up a bit. I just never in a million years thought that I would see that ring again.”
“It’s just so much more exciting to be able to give it back to somebody and make them happy because for me it’s just another ring in a jar,” Rinke said.
Cole said the ring is in pretty good shape. She said while it doesn’t fit her ring finger anymore, it does fit her pinky just fine.
Rinke, who has gathered thousands of trinkets while metal detecting, said he hopes reunite even more items with the rightful owners.