June 27, 2013

'God's wink': Daughter reunited with her late mother's lost class ring

By Carol Mills
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Last Saturday two families, who did not know each other, gathered at Starbucks in London to exchange a high school class ring.

After David Grigsby told the story about his 10-year quest to find the owner of a class ring he bought at a flea market at the Laurel County Homecoming, hugs and tears were exchanged and the two families were forever friends.

“I bought the ring for $10,” Grigsby said. “I wanted to find the owner. It had the initials “P.D.C.” engraved on the inside and it was from Cumberland High School and was dated 1975.”

Grigsby found out the owner of the ring, Pamela Diane Collins, had died two months of a heart attack at the age of 38 after giving birth to a daughter, Shelby Schilling. Pam had been the class salutatorian in 1975.

Grigsby said he wanted to give the ring to Pam’s sister, Felichia Donahue, but she wanted Shelby to have it.

Grigsby, who left London five years ago to be a cycling coach at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, still has a few questions he hopes someone will step forward and answer, such as how the ring got from Cumberland to a flea market in London.

Grigsby said around 10 years ago he and his wife, Karen, were walking through the flea market at the Laurel County Homecoming. He started rummaging around in a box of costume jewelry when a shiny pink stone caught his eye.

“I picked it up and it was a class ring,” he said. “I wasn’t shopping for anything at all, especially jewelry. I never buy jewelry. I saw it was from Cumberland High School and it was from the 70s. I looked inside and it had some initials and it hit me that this was not a display piece. It was somebody’s class ring. I asked the person at the booth if it belonged to them and they said it didn’t. I asked them what they wanted for it and they said $10. I thought it would be worth $10 to reunite someone with the ring.”

He went home that night thinking he would get on the Internet and find the rightful owner. He started searching for Cumberland High School, class of 75; he typed in initials; and he searched, any type of search he could try, but he was unsuccessful.

He called the school but the person answering the phone couldn’t help him. He called the library in Harlan but they didn’t have a yearbook from 1975.

“I kind of gave up at that point, but every six months or so I would try again. I kept the ring on my keychain just so that I would remember to keep trying occasionally. I didn’t want to throw it in a box and forget about it. Every six months, the ring would catch my eye and I would find myself at the computer doing another search, but nothing came up.”

About two weeks ago, he got a break. He went on Facebook and searched for Cumberland High School. He had done this before, but now there was a site and it had a list of all the students who had gone to the school there and they were reconnecting with each other.

“I tried to join the Facebook webpage of Cumberland High School, but it wouldn’t let me because they couldn’t see that I had any connection with the school. I found someone on there that shared the same last name as me. It turns out she was my great aunt by marriage from my uncle who had passed away. So, I sent her an email asking her if she would post this little story to help me find the owner of the ring. I gave her the initials in the ring and the year.”

In about three hours, she had found somebody that had a yearbook from 1975 who looked up the initials. There was only one person with those initials and she knew her sister, Felichia Donahue.

“Within a day, I got a call from her ( Felichia) and she knew that was her sister’s (Pamela Diane Collins) ring. That’s how I got in touch with her. She told me her sister had passed away around 18 years ago, that she had given birth and had died a couple of months after that of a heart attack, and that Pam’s daughter was now 18 and had just graduated high school (Harlan) and she wanted to get the ring back to her.”

“It was perfect timing,” Karen Grigsby said. “Her graduating high school and her getting ready to go to college. I think she can appreciate it more now than when she was eight years old.”

Shelby plans on wearing the ring on a necklace.

She was raised by her father in Indiana but she has been living with her aunt and uncle, Felichia and J.B. Donahue, in Harlan to finish high school and then to go onto Pikeville College. Her boyfriend, David Allen, is also from this area.

“Because of technology, because of the Internet, the information age, you can do things like this now,” David said. “Ten years ago I couldn’t do it. Today I was able to. I’m hoping there’s a lot of other class rings out there with initials on them that could get back to their owners. If it gets them half the pleasure that it’s given us, it’s worth it. Class rings are very personal items.”

David wants to know more about the journey of the ring.

“Nobody knows how the ring got to the flea market,” David said. “We don’t know if it was lost and found. We don’t know if it was pawned. I doubt it because it’s just a class ring. It wouldn’t have been worth anything. If anybody out there remembers selling a class ring at the homecoming and might remember how they came about it, we’d love to find out more about the journey, more about how it made the circle.”

“Finding the owner of the ring is a God’s wink,” Felichia said.

Anyone having any information about the ring, call David at 606-1-524-8808.