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Class of '83 ring no longer missing

Shawn Carr, left, meets Alan Carpenter, who found Carr's class ring 34 years after it was lost. (Photo submitted)1 / 2
Shawn Carr's 1983 class ring from Ely Memorial High School after having been found and cleaned after spending 34 years in the bottom of Birch Lake. (Photo submitted)2 / 2

In 1982 Shawn Carr and his girlfriend at the time, Lori Lee Rentschler, were swimming at Birch Lake Beach in Babbitt, Minn. Around Rentschler's neck was Carr's class ring from Ely Memorial High School, from where he was to graduate in 1983. As they swam, they realized the ring had fallen off the chain, disappearing into the vast waters of Birch Lake.

"Occasionally over the years I would think about her (Rentschler) and sometimes the ring," Carr said. "I had been thinking about her and the ring a lot since I learned of her passing last spring."

Carr and Rentschler met that summer at K's Kernel, a local popcorn stand on the main drag in Ely. They stayed friends after their breakup and Carr helped as an usher in Rentschler's wedding. In the spring of 2014, Rentschler passed away due to ALS.

"When the chain broke and she lost the ring, we were in about 4 1/2 feet of water," Carr recalled. "She was very upset and we looked for the ring for a very long time that day. She would be so glad to know it's been found."

On June 22, Carr received a Facebook friend request from Alan Carpenter. Carpenter messaged him asking if he had ever lost anything in Babbitt. Carr immediately realized Carpenter meant his class ring. Carr's name had been inscribed on the ring, so when Carpenter found it he Facebook-searched Ely residents around that age.

"He explained to me that he was an avid treasure hunter and had an underwater metal detector," Carr said. "He'd found the ring in about 4 1/2 feet of water, embedded into the lake bottom. At first I was speechless and then I got kind of emotional."

Carpenter had never found an item that was returnable to its owner. He has been metal-detecting for about a year and enjoys going with his friends. Some of his friends have returned items to the original owners and said it's a great feeling to do so. "I found out there's nothing like hearing the stories behind an item like hearing about Shawn's class ring when I returned it to him," Carpenter said. "I was so excited that I could find the owner on Facebook to return the ring. It brings me great pleasure knowing that Shawn has back the ring that his grandparents had got for him and also the memories of his past girlfriend."

Not only was Carpenter pleased with having returned a missing item to someone, but Carr was very happy to have back an item of his youth.

"It is special to me on a couple of different levels, is a treasured memory of Lori, somebody I had dearly loved, and when I came to Duluth eight years ago, the Veterans Administration brought me here," said Carr, who now works at the human services agency CHUM. "I was homeless at the time, recovering from back surgery and recently divorced. It is the only material item that I possess from my past. I never dreamed it would be returned to me. I am very grateful to Alan for returning more than just a ring, he returned some special memories." The ring was tarnished and there was water behind the setting from being in the lake for 34 years. Nummi Jewelers of Superior heard the story and offered to clean the ring free of charge. During the process the crown of the ring came off because of the water damage, but they also repaired that for no charge.

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