It took three-and-a-half decades to find. But it will likely remain a mystery forever as to how a high school grad ring, stolen from a Mount Allison locker room 35 years earlier, ended up 15 kilometres away on the old Dorchester jail property.
Either way Tim Phinney is ecstatic to have recently been reunited with his class ring, a memento from his high school years he never thought he’d see again.
“This is very satisfying getting it back,” said Phinney, a grad of Tantramar Regional High School’s Class of 1983.
Phinney said he was completely taken aback when he started hearing the news from friends and family that his class ring had been found.
“35 years later and I get my ring back,” he said. “That’s pretty unbelievable.”
Phinney explained that about a year following his high school graduation, his ring was stolen from a locker in the Mount Allison University’s change room along with a watch and some cash. While he had reported the theft to university officials at the time, he recalls that nobody had noticed anyone going in or out of the locker rooms and so he expected those items were gone to him forever.
“It has a neat story to tell. We’ll never know,” said Phinney of how the ring made it to Dorchester.
Getting the ring back brought back some unexpected emotions for Phinney, who said it was special to him for many reasons. High school was a treasured time for the former Titan football player – and that was represented on the ring with an engraved football player on one side and the school crest on the other. The ring was also a graduation gift from his grandparents.
“It’s pretty special (getting it back),” said Phinney. “My grandparents aren’t around anymore and they were a big part of my life growing up.”
Phinney is grateful to the finder of the ring, Denis LeBlanc, and said he hopes to be able to get it fixed up and fitted so he can wear it again.
LeBlanc, a metal detecting enthusiast, was on his way out the door on Sunday, May 5 to do some digging around when he got a Facebook message from a fellow detectorist Tony Jarvis to meet him at the Dorchester jail. Jarvis had just gotten permission to do some detecting on the property and the two were pretty “pumped” at the opportunity.
“I love new permissions and fresh detecting grounds,” said LeBlanc, noting he was hoping to find some old coins.
They were about 45 minutes into their search when LeBlanc came across a really good signal close to the jail fence.
“I dug it up and there it was, the class ring.”
Easily readable, the ring was clearly stamped with the year 1983 and featured the Tantramar high school crest. LeBlanc said there was also an inscription inside the band which he couldn’t make out at first.
That’s when he began doing a bit of detective work.
“Later that day when I got home I looked up the graduating class of 1983 for Tantramar high school on the internet and matched the inscription in the band to a Tim Phinney in the class list,” he said. “Now the search was on to locate and contact Tim.”
Bill Steele, owner of the old Dorchester jail, had made a post on his Facebook page about their find and it was garnering lots of comments and shares, said LeBlanc. A few days later, Tim's wife commented on it saying it was her husband's ring. So LeBlanc contacted her and set up a date to be able to return his ring.
“Finding a class ring with inscription and finding the owner is almost every metal detectorist’s dream,” he said. “It's an awesome feeling to be able to give back a piece of their history they thought was lost forever.”
Jail owner Bill Steele said he was also excited about the find, saying he’s pleased Phinney was able to be reunited with his long-lost class ring.
“Seeing the amazement and happiness on his face was rewarding.”
Steele hopes even more treasures are waiting to be discovered on his property.
“I still have to find where the Bannister Boys are buried.”