Ed Grisamore

From Macon to Aiken: A ring comes full circle

wmarshall@macon.com

I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of ring stories I have written over the years.

They are prone to slip off appendages and sneak past knuckles. They are dropped, misplaced and tumble out of pockets.

The world is a giant lost-and-found box. Some folks get lucky. Others never give up hope.

I have shared stories about rings retrieved from the bottom of mountain lakes and storm sewers.

I once interviewed a man who placed his college ring on the bumper of his truck while practicing golf swings in his yard. The daughter of a truck driver called him 16 years later and said it had been found. Another man’s high school ring fell out of his pocket on a field trip to Washington, D.C. A guy with a metal detector found it on a college campus 22 years later and returned it to him.

Another time, I told the story of a Macon native whose class ring was found inside a baby grand piano in Florida after going AWOL for 28 years. One of the most incredible tales was about a Cochran man, who lost his 1957 high school class ring while hunting. The Earth gave it back to him 42 years later in a field among the plowed rows of peanuts and soybeans.

Every time I write one ring story, I usually get a handful more. Most recently, I sat across the table from Johnny Jones, who wondered if his lost ring story was word-worthy.

If anything, I told him, it was an example of a group of men committed to locate the family of a woman who graduated from high school in Macon 88 years ago, and died 16 years ago in a city 150 miles away.

It was about doing the right thing.

Edith Stokes Tarver graduated from Lanier Girls High, which later became Miller High School for Girls. It was 1929, the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

Her father was vice president of the Citizens & Southern Bank in Macon and was owner of the Massee Apartments on College Street. She went on to graduate from Wesleyan College and became a school teacher. In 1938, she married Walter Gustave Wallenburg and settled in Aiken, South Carolina.

Her class ring had “Lanier” engraved across the bottom and a “GH” – for Girls High – above it between the numbers “19” and “29.”

It was lost in the parking lot at the Macon Mall some time in the 1970s. The exact year is not known, but the mall opened in 1975, so it was after that.

Wallenburg died in November 2000. Her granddaughter, Hope Spruell, said the family cannot recall her ever mentioning losing the ring. They believe she might have been in Macon for a Wesleyan reunion or to visit friends.

The ring was found by a Macon man, who wishes to remain anonymous.

“He put it in a jewelry box and forgot about it,’’ Jones said. “He recently found it in there.’’

The man knew Jones was involved with a group of Lanier grads who gather twice a month for lunch at Jeneane’s on Forsyth Road. They swap old stories over hoecakes and turnip greens.

Jones, who graduated from Lanier in 1962, took the ring to Howard’s Pawn & Jewelry for help in identifying the faded letters on the inside of the ring.

It read: “Edith T …’’ The other letters were illegible.

Jones contacted Milton McBryant, a 1959 graduate of Lanier who might have the world’s largest collection of Lanier-Miller memorabilia. It is like a shrine or museum. He has letter jackets and sweaters, old programs and all but five yearbooks dating back to 1915.

McBryant determined the ring belonged to an Edith Stokes Tarver. “She was the only Edith in her class,’’ he said. “So it was easy.’’

He looked her up in an alumni directory, where her address was listed on Forest Hill. The only problem was it was Forest Hill Avenue in Aiken — not Forest Hill Road in Macon.

Lee Johnson, one of the leaders of the Lanier lunch bunch, began helping Jones research information about the ring owner.

Jones said he doesn’t consider himself a computer whiz. He is retired from the post office, so he is more familiar with “snail mail” than email.

Through a search on the internet, he found her full married name and her obituary with a list of surviving relatives. He contacted the office at St. Thaddeus Episcopal, where she is buried in the church cemetery. The staff there helped put him in contact with the family.

He sent the ring by certified mail, and McBryant made a copy of a class photograph of Edith Stokes Tarver from the 1929 annual. He included another photo of her in a school play.

Jones said he always wanted to do detective work, but it was more than that. It was in his heart.

He and the others are to be commended for taking the time and making the effort to return the lost ring to the family of a lady who is no longer living who graduated from a school that no longer exists.

From Macon to Aiken, the ring came full circle.

Ed Grisamore teaches journalism and creative writing at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sunday in The Telegraph.

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