By COLBY DENTON
Some items, regardless of how cherished, can be lost to time. Paul Collins is a local graduate of Birchwood High School who lost his 1961 class ring the same year he got it, only to have it found and …
Some items, regardless of how cherished, can be lost to time. Paul Collins is a local graduate of Birchwood High School who lost his 1961 class ring the same year he got it, only to have it found and returned to him by a family friend, Kevin Lewis, in 2017.
The 75-year-old Collins is a cheerful Vietnam veteran who served his country for three years, starting after he was drafted in 1966.
“I served as an aircraft engine repairman,” Collins said of his work on military planes. “I worked on OV-1 Mohawks, along with a team of five other guys from all over the country.”
Proudly acquiring his class ring his high school graduation year of 1961, Collins explained how he lost it shortly after getting it.
“This ring was buried [in mud and silt] for over 20 years, and Kevin Lewis found this when he was about 13 or 14 years old, and laid it up on a shelf for years,” Collins said. “Kevin found it over on the river, which is where I lost it.”
On a fishing trip with a friend, he says a rainstorm forced them to run to their truck, and in the rush, his ring flew off at an unknown spot.
A search was conducted to no avail for several days after the ring was dropped, as Collins did not know exactly where it had fallen. He believed he would never see it again.
Just a few short years after his high school graduation, Collins, like many other young men, was drafted into the Vietnam War, and quickly forgot about his lost memento.
“I was stationed right on the South China Sea, so I could walk right across the flight lines to fish or go swimming,” Collins said.
The OV-1 Mohawk was are designed for battlefield surveillance and light strike capabilities. He explained that a large device called a “cigar” was underneath the craft to take photos and videos of the battlefields. During his stay in Vietnam, Collins said his crew's base was attacked 13 times with rockets and mortars, in the three years he served.
Following his service, Collins returned to Cleveland, where he worked for Maytag for 39 years and found his future wife, Belinda; however, it wasn’t until 2017 that he would be reunited with his class ring.
“Kevin was looking through some of his old stuff one day last year and came across my ring, which renewed his interest in finding its owner,” Collins said. “In a twist of fate, Kevin used to hunt with my brother, Gene, and he asked Gene if he knew anyone with the initials P.C., which he did because it was me!”
Having been lost for 56 years, Collins said his ring was quite a surprising Christmas gift!
Despite being buried for years, the ring looks nearly as vivid in color and luster as the day Collins got it in 1961. Miraculously, the stone is still perfectly intact, as is all of the lettering.
Collins said that the entire experience has shown him that there are still good people in the world, as many people would have simply pawned the ring, sold it or melted it down for its gold, but the fact that Lewis kept it shows a very generous spirit indeed.
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