Woman reunited with high school ring almost 25 years after losing it

Woman reunited with high school ring almost 25 years after losing it

DANVILLE — When "Danville High School" appeared on her work caller ID, Delores Jones had a feeling the call was for her.

Oh, no. One of my kids is in trouble again, she thought, taking the phone from her co-worker.

"Delores Jones?" a man asked. "Did you have a class ring?"

"A long time ago," Jones said, puzzled by the question.

"Can you describe it?"

"Peridot gemstone. My name and 'track' down the side. My name engraved on the inside," she answered, wondering what this was about.

After a pause, the man said, "You're not going to believe this."

The caller — Danville Public School Foundation Director Bob Richard — told the 1986 DHS graduate that a Memphis woman had contacted him. In the late 1980s, she found a class ring belonging to a Delores Jones in a parking lot at Grambling State University in Louisiana. For more than 20 years, she had been trying to track down the owner and return it to her.

"Oh, my!" a stunned Jones said over and over as her co-worker asked excitedly, "What? What?"

Jones hadn't thought of her ring since she lost it in 1987 right before she left Grambling for home.

A Danville native, Jones, 42, grew up in the old Carver Park public-housing complex. She was the youngest of six children, raised by a single mother.

"She was a hard worker," Jones recalled of her mom, a Danville High custodian for 30-plus years. "She wanted us to finish high school and go to college. She said, 'If you have an education, you can do anything, be anything.'"

Jones excelled at Lincoln Elementary, South View Middle School and Danville High, where she also ran track. Her mother was overjoyed to learn Jones had enough credits to graduate a year early.

"She said, 'Let's get you something special to remember this,'" Jones recalled with a smile. "She asked me if I wanted a class ring. To get a class ring was something special. It cost $100. Back in the day, $100 was a lot of money. Still is."

Jones selected a silver ring adorned with her birthstone, "Danville High School" etched around it, her name and graduation year on one side and track images on the other. Her name, Delores I. Jones, was engraved inside the band.

In the fall of 1986, Jones left for Grambling and majored in accounting. She had no problem keeping up with her studies. But she was kicked out right before Christmas break after getting caught in her boyfriend's dorm room after hours. Although she admits to smoking marijuana at school, something she started in seventh grade, she claims she didn't know her boyfriend was dealing drugs and stealing change from the dorm's washing machines.

Jones returned home and went to Danville Area Community College during the spring semester. That fall, she returned to Grambling but was kicked out again for having a guy in her room, this time for good.

"A couple of days before I was going to catch the bus home, I realized my ring was gone," Jones recalled. "I remember going through my roommate's luggage. I tore up her suitcase, the mattresses, everything, looking for that ring. I thought maybe I gave it to some guy. I called my ex, but he didn't have it."

Jones wept on the 18-hour ride home. She never told her mother she lost the ring.

"I was already a disappointment — getting kicked out twice."

Jones didn't have time to think about the ring over the next 20 years. She returned to DACC, graduated cum laude from Jackson State University in Mississippi and worked as an accountant at the Hyster plant in Danville.

But after Hyster closed, Jones was laid off. She started pushing marijuana and crack cocaine and eventually became her best customer.

Jones continued to struggle with addiction throughout the 1990s. In 2000, she and her then-husband, also an addict, moved to Indianapolis to try to make a fresh start. But the drugs followed, and then she was arrested for cutting her husband with a piece of broken glass.

It was only after her mother had a heart attack that Jones got clean. An Indiana judge allowed her to serve her probation sentence back home so she could care for her mom on the condition that she underwent drug treatment.

Jones sought treatment at New Directions Treatment Center in Danville. Now the mother of three sons, she has been sober for nearly 11 years, has worked as a New Directions drug counselor for seven years and currently serves as clinical director.

In 2006, Jones told her story to The News-Gazette, and that's how the Memphis woman finally tracked her down.

Richard said the Memphis woman, who didn't want to be identified, called the foundation two weeks ago and asked whether he had any record of a Delores T. Jones graduating in 1986. (She thought the "I" was a "T.") She went on to explain how she found the ring and tried to find Danville High but had been looking in Louisiana.

Recently, she read a story about a man who was reunited with his class pin after many years. That inspired her to relaunch her search on the Internet. She found The News-Gazette story, which placed a Delores Jones at Danville High, in Illinois, and Grambling.

Richard tracked down Jones at work. Once he was certain she was the long-lost owner, he contacted the Memphis woman so that she could mail him the ring.

"She was very excited," Richard said. "All those years, she couldn't bring herself to get rid of the ring. I think she knew it had special memories for someone, and she didn't want to throw those memories away. ... It just lets you know that people want to do the right thing."

When Richard returned the ring to Jones, her mind was flooded with memories of high school — hanging out with her best friend, Mary Cooper; running hurdles and the 400-meter relay; joking around with one of her favorite teachers, Steve Birky. She also thought of her mother, who passed away a few years ago.

"I told my group. I told my pastor. Everyone was like, 'Oh, my God! God works miracles,'" Jones said, her voice choked with emotion.

"It looks brand new," said Jones, who is getting it resized to fit her finger. "I'm also going to email (the finder), and ask her, 'If I can do one thing for you, what would it be?' I just feel like God performed a miracle for me. I should pass that on."