Fla. man returns long-lost class ring to Punxsy grad

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Tom Poore was convinced that the 1944 Punxsutawney High School class ring that his father found near West Palm Beach, Fla., in the early 1970s belonged to Blair Richards.

The only person who wasn’t convinced that the ring was his, was Blair Richards.

“I thought it was a scam,” Richards said Wednesday evening, just a few hours after Poore drove all the way from Roseland, Fla., to return the ring to him. “He called me a year ago, and I didn’t believe him.”

But Poore, who recently retired as a Sebastian, Fla., police officer after 21 years, decided it was worth the trip north after hearing of how Richards believes he lost his class ring — while serving in the military.

Two months after graduating from Punxsutawney High School in 1944, Richards was serving in the U.S. Air Force, working on aircraft. That’s how he believes he lost the ring.

“I was working on an airplane, and my knuckles are big, so it was loose,” he said. “I must have gotten some grease on it ... after that, I don’t know what happened. I only had it on my finger two or three months.”

“I’m living the good life because of people like him,” Poore said. “He deserves the best, so I was going to bring his ring to him.”

How the ring — whether it fell into a part of the aircraft’s engine, fuselage or what — got from Mississippi to Florida is anyone’s guess, Richards said.

“Well, I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s got ‘44, and it’s got my initials on it.”

Poore said his father found the ring in West Palm Beach, Fla., in the early 1970s. How he found the ring is a mystery, too.

“He was a plumber,” he said. “He found stuff everywhere.”

His father passed away, but his mother hung onto the ring until coming across it a few months ago after leafing through some other items. She and her son wondered what to do with it, and initially thought of pawning it.
“My mom’s had it forever, and I said I’d rather find the owner,” Poore said.

From there, he took pictures of the ring and posted them on Facebook until a cousin said it was from Punxsutawney High School. From there, Poore found numbers for the Punxsutawney Area School District, and staff members using yearbooks helped him narrow down the initials engraved in the ring to a member of the ‘44 class: Richards.

Poore found contact information for Richards via the Internet and called him about what he had found. That was a few months ago.

“I asked him, ‘Did you graduate in 1944?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Did you get a class ring?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Do you still have it?’ He said, ‘No, I lost it.’ I said, ‘This is him.’”

Poore told Richards about his find, but Richards — still thinking it was a scam — didn’t believe it.

“He said, ‘There’s no way you’ve got my ring, buddy,’” Poore said. “It took a little convincing.”

Poore kept an eye on the weather, and after seeing Pennsylvania’s wet April, decided Tuesday and Wednesday were good days as any to make the trip north to Punxsy — more than 1,100 hours away from Roseland.

He drove all day Tuesday and arrived in Punxsy after midnight before meeting Richards at his house Wednesday. Richards showed him some of the sights in town — especially Gobbler’s Knob, home of Groundhog Day — and had lunch before Poore left for the long trip home later in the day.

“He saw some of his friends and said, ‘This guy found my ring,’” Poore said. “He started calling it his ring. That made me feel good.”

At Spirit press time, Poore said he had changed his mind about returning to Florida and instead opted to travel a bit out of the way — to Maine — at the invitation of a friend.

“I could do this all year,” he said. “We used to drive around in police cars for 12 hours at a time.”