Jon Stookey thought he’d never see it again. But a few months after he sold his family’s farm in Rush Valley, its new owner presented him with a surprise:
His Tooele High School class ring that he lost on the farm more than a half century ago.
Stookey, 72, who now lives in Grantsville with his wife Nancy Stookey, sold over 100 acres of farmland to Kris Burrows last May.
The first week in August, the Stookeys went to Rush Valley on an errand. Burrows’ wife, Lacy Burrows, saw Jon and mentioned that her husband wanted to see him. The Stookeys proceeded to visit Jon’s brother, Mark Stookey, who lived nearby.
Just then, Jon said, Kris rode up on his ATV with a couple of his sons and took something off of his finger.
“I pulled over and said ‘Hey, Jon, look at my ring,’” Kris recounted.
“I could hardly believe it at first when he handed it to me,” Jon said.
When he saw it, Jon instantly knew it was his class ring.
The Tooele High School class ring looked just as he remembered it, except for a chip on the black enameled THS letters. Despite 55 years of heat, cold, farm equipment — and being trampled by livestock — the ring was in good shape.
“Yeah, we had cows,” Jon said. “The cows had probably walked all over it.”
Jon said students normally get their class rings as juniors in high school, but he didn’t have the money as a junior. The next year, in the spring of ‘62, he scraped together the $25 he needed to buy the ring before he graduated.
“A couple of months later, I was working out on the farm and I had to lube the bailer,” he said. “I didn’t want to get [the ring] dirty and so I put it in my shirt pocket.”
Jon crawled under some fence wire to get to the hay. Then, he heard a “plop.” He lost the ring.
Jon said he hunted for the ring for days.
“I could not find it,” he said. “I looked on and off for two or three months after I lost it, and I figured ‘well, it’s just lost.’ Then I went back there periodically, maybe two or three years after that, to see if I could find it, but I never did.”
After graduating from THS, Jon tried going to college for a quarter. Then he tried a couple of semesters of trade school in ‘64 and ‘65 where he studied diesel mechanics. He said it was tough figuring out what he wanted to do for a career.
But then, in 1966, “halfway through the year, my Uncle Sam said ‘you’re gonna come work for me, boy!’” he said.
The government started instituting the draft for the Vietnam War. But instead of being drafted into the infantry, Jon decided to enlist so he could decide which branch of the military he wanted to serve. He chose the Army and trained to repair aircraft.
After basic training, Jon said he was assigned to bases in California, Alabama and Virginia, “and then they sent me to South Vietnam.”
He returned home in 1967 after serving a year as an aircraft mechanic and settled into civilian life, continuing to work as an aircraft mechanic at Dugway Proving Ground, and then for the Utah Army National Guard. He met Nancy by accident when he signed up to take a biology class. Because his section didn’t have enough people enrolled in it, he was serendipitously moved into Nancy’s section where they met.
The two were married in 1974. At the beginning of their marriage, the subject of Jon’s lost ring came up when the two talked about how mechanics and others will take rings off for work — so they don’t lose a finger. But they didn’t discuss the lost class ring much afterward.
Nancy joined her husband at Dugway for work. Her job was to take care of finances as Garrison Resource Manager. Both are now retired.
The couple lived in Grantsville for seven years at the beginning of their married life, then they moved to Rush Valley to help take care of Jon’s parents. For the last eight years they have returned to live in Grantsville. In the meantime, Jon continued to work on the family farm in Rush Valley, until the property was sold in May.
Jon said things have changed on the farm since he was a high school senior. The water that had run along the ditch to the side of the fence line was diverted into underground pipes. The fence had been moved as well.
The former landmarks that would have helped to find the ring had shifted over time.
Jon said when it came to selling the property last spring, he had all but forgotten about the lost ring. At least until he and Kris were driving along the fence where Jon had lost the ring.
“When we sold the property to Kris and Lacy, they kind of wanted an idea of what had gone on there, so I said, ‘over along that fence there … I lost my high school class ring.’”
Kris said Jon told him he probably wouldn’t find the ring, because the fenceline and ditch had changed.
But Kris saw the statement as a challenge.
“Well, I’ll find it!” he said.
Kris told Jon about how he loved using his metal detector. He had received it as a Christmas gift from his wife three years ago. Since then, finding metal treasures had become a hobby, if not an obsession.
When Kris finally got around to using his metal detector at the farm, he said at first he came up with an armful of bottles with metal lids. A week later, he returned to the spot, this time starting to work on the north side of the current fence — and hit paydirt.
“It was probably about four to six inches down,” Kris said. He couldn’t wait to show it to Jon.
The third week in August was Jon’s Tooele High class reunion. He was excited to show his classmates the lost class ring and to share the story of how it was found just two weeks before the gathering.
Jon said his classmates told him, “Oh, you’ve got to tell people about that!”
Though the ring no longer fits on Jon’s ring finger, it does fit perfectly on his pinky finger.
While Jon has remained thin and in great shape, “Of course, you get old, arthritic knuckles after you get older,” he said.
“It must be made of pretty good material, because it stayed there in the dirt for 55 years,” he added.
Thanks to Kris and his metal detector, the ring is with its rightful owner again. Though the ring was lost, Jon never lost a finger. He was vigilant to keep jewelry off his fingers when he worked, whether it was working on diesel trucks, on airplanes, or on the family farm.