Lost for 15 years, class ring found and returned to owner

by Geoff Fox

A Hancock High School class ring lost during Canal Apple Days 15 years ago has found its way back home thanks to a Hancock resident and his metal detector.

Mike Keefer was in Widmeyer Park, behind the last pavilion, on June 20when he found the ring buried in the ground.

“I know the park is always good for a hand full of pocket change,” he said about looking in Widmeyer Park.

Keefer said he was using his son’s newer metal detector, a Minelab Equinox 600, in what he calls a “very trashy area” where he gets signals on the detector for things like aluminum foil, bottle caps, pull tabs, and other things of that sort when he found the ring.

The metal detector has what detectorists call a “quick recovery,” which separates two signals when they have a good signal beside a trashy signal.

“In simple terms, a metal detector finds different metals in the ground,” he said. “These different metals emits different tones which tell the user what ‘possibly’ in the ground.”

This gives the detectorist a general idea what they are digging before they begin to dig.

While he’s already found six rings this year, this was the first class ring Keefer has found.

“It’s always been on my ‘bucket list’ to find a class ring and return it to the rightful owner,” Keefer said. “I guess I was at the right place right time.”

After finding the ring, Keefer said he and his wife first went to the library to and research the person it belonged to and through a yearbook were “pretty sure” of the owner.

The owner was Chris Fox who had lost it during 15 years ago at Canal Apple Days.

“He seemed astonished that I had actually found the ring,” Keefer said. “I got him to describe the ring just to make sure.”

Keefer’s son had put a message on Facebook where a family friend had contacted Fox and gave him Keefer’s phone number.

Keefer has been interested in metal detecting for about six years when his brother got one for Christmas and borrowed a friend’s detector so he could keep his brother company.

“Well… couple months later I bought my first used detector,” he said. “I was hooked.”

Mike Keefer found this Hancock High School Class of 2003 class ring in Widmeyer Park on June 20 while he was out using his metal detector.

A year later he bought his first new detector, a Garrett AT Pro he still uses.

Since then, he has collected a big wooden ammo box full of his treasures.

“I keep anything that I think is cool,” he said. “But when I dig trash, I keep it also and dispose it properly. Cleaning the environment while enjoying my hobby.”

He has also returned items he has found to their rightful owners and if he digs on someone’s property, the owner has the option of keeping the item if they like it.

He has two memorable finds to go along with finding the class ring.

The first happened when Keefer got a call from his son in distress after losing his new iPhone in a semi-flooded creek while kayaking.

When Keefer got to the creek, it was rising fast and up past mid thigh with more rain in the forecast.

“After five minutes searching, I came across a great signal,” Keefer said.

Keefer’s son had to hold onto his dad’s legs as he dove under because the current was so swift.

“Sure enough it was his phone,” he said. “He was hugging me and dancing in the creek.”

Mike Keefer (right) shakes Chris Fox’ hand after returning his class ring that had been lost for 15 years. Photo by Mike Keefer.

Two weeks later, while looking for a fishing pole that fell out of a boat, Keefer and his son were water detecting and came upon a target – another cellphone in a plastic ziplock bag with $40 inside.

They were able to reunite the working phone and money to the owner who gave them the $40 as a reward.

Keefer said old home sites are his favorite places to hunt for items, “especially those that date back to the late 1800s.”

They’ve also searched fields and old swimming holes, which are his son’s favorite to hunt.

Keefer and his son Jordan have started a YouTube channel called Aqualand Relics where they go out and detect and look for items people have lost.