Ky metal hunter finds lost class ring

By Rita Price

The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS (AP) — To take up metal detecting as a hobby is to unearth a lot of pull tabs. Good finds are few and far between, Mike Blankenship says.

“You’ll do more trash than anything of value,” said Blankenship, a union millwright and member of the Central Kentucky Research and Recovery Metal-Detecting Club.

A code of honor further reduces the likelihood for gain.

“Anything that I find that has a name on it,” he said, “I always try to find the owner.”

And so it would be last week when his equipment signaled an item buried just outside a park in Lexington, Kentucky, where Cheryl Stephen of Barnesville, Ohio, lived for a short time more than 30 years ago.

Blankenship dug up a silver St. Clairsville High School Class of 1981 ring with a pink stone. The initials “CJC” were engraved inside and still easy to read. Blankenship isn’t much on Internet searches, but his wife, Sara, is a whiz.

“She literally found Cheryl in about five minutes,” he said Wednesday.

Facebook messages were exchanged and a piece of Stephen’s heart was soon on its way back to eastern Ohio. “She died before I graduated,” Stephen said of her mother. “It was the last gift that she ever got for me.”

The ring had always been a tad loose, and Stephen hadn’t known how or where she lost it. Her best guess now is that it slipped from her finger when she went on a run at the park.

Mike Blankenship said Stephen — her maiden name is Contos — apparently was the only “CJC” at St. Clairsville that year, so the mystery wasn’t too difficult to solve. The ring arrived Tuesday at Stephen’s 85-acre homestead, where she rescues and nurtures all kinds of animals.

“They’re just really nice people,” Stephen said of the Blankenships. “They even offered to bring it to me. I said come on up and visit any time.”

Recovering a piece of metal with such a story is a treat, said Blankenship, who also has found valuable coins, old saloon tokens and buttons and bullets from the Civil War.

“The silver that ring is made of, it must be pure,” he said. “It looks great. I was so happy.”

Stephen said it still fits the same. She might have the ring adjusted, though, so it doesn’t get away again.

“It’s kinda bittersweet,” she said. “I feel like I got this gift from my mom all over again.”