Sometimes, you do get a second chance. Sometimes, an object long gone finds its way home.
Civitas Media advertising representative Mike Grimm was shocked to learn that his 1990 class ring would be returned to him after losing the tangible proof of graduation some 26 years ago. Grimm learned through a recent telephone conversation with Florida resident Jonathan Pizzo that the wandering ring had been found; that it had been safely tucked away, all these years, inside an assortment of ‘junk’ drawers – first, at his grandfather’s and, later, at his parents’ home.
“My grandpa, Harvey Werner, would routinely walk up and down Maitland Avenue (in Altamonte Springs, Florida), sometimes multiple times a day. He would often return with hidden treasures he would find along his route.
“During one of his walks, my grandpa came along a high school class ring,” said Pizzo.
Like most of the other items found along the way, the ring wound up inside a ‘keep all’ drawer.
Pizzo says his parents first came across the ring in 2011, while cleaning out Werner’s estate, after his passing.
Intrigued by the ring, Pizzo says his mother brought it home with the idea that it might be “cool” to track down the owner.
A study of the ring revealed several clues that would eventually lead to its recovery.
Pizzo says he scoured the internet for leads while his mother called the high school whose name was engraved on the ring.
“Without any luck, the ring was tossed into the family junk drawer at my parents’ house,” said Pizzo.
A search, six years later, for the latest version of ‘TurboTax,’ netted Pizzo the wandering ring.
“Somehow, it found its way from the family junk drawer to the computer desk. I picked the ring up and figured I would take another stab at finding its owner,” he said.
Playing detective, he says he built a profile of the mystery ring.
“Instead of jumping on Google and searching broad key terms, I thought I would start with a free genealogy website used to map out family trees. I found a site called Family Tree Now and started entering information based on the profile I put together,” said Pizzo.
Taking the information gleaned from the ring, he narrowed the search to any ‘Michaels’ in their mid-40s who lived near Lyman High School during the late 1980s.
His search paid off, with one result matching the criteria.
“I now had learned more information about Michael than the ring could reveal.
“While I still didn’t have a contact number or email address, I was able to pinpoint his current residence in Tennessee, a list of past home addresses and a list of known family members and associates. I figured a quick social media sweep would connect me with the correct Michael,” said Pizzo.
After an exhaustive search of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram, Pizzo says he figured Grimm was completely off the grid.
“As a last resort, I checked LinkedIn, which returned a profile of one Michael Grimm who lived in Tazewell,” said Pizzo.
However, he ran into another snag when he discovered the LinkedIn InMail option requires a paid premium subscription package. Choosing to go in another direction, Pizzo ran into yet another dead end while attempting to find Grimm’s contact information on his current employer’s website.
“I was frustrated that, despite how close I had come, I couldn’t find a way to contact the owner of the ring. I decided to double back to the LinkedIn profile and fully read through the text. I noticed near the end, Michael had listed a personal interest in baseball. More specifically, this Michael was the director of coaches for Little League Baseball in New Tazewell.
“I remembered that the ring had a baseball engraved on the side,” said Pizzo.
After more online searching, Pizzo came across an article about the Little League Baseball teams. Included in the story was Grimm’s contact information.
“I nearly jumped out of my seat. I had found Michael,” said Pizzo.
At this point, a simple telephone call would decide the ring’s fate, he said.
Apparently, Grimm was able to satisfy all the questions put to him by Pizzo.
“Now, the ring has been reunited with Michael after decades of sitting in junk drawer after junk drawer. To be honest, the ring has been in my family’s possession longer than Michael’s,” said Pizzo.
The amateur detective says the satisfaction of returning the ring to its rightful owner was worth the challenging search. Grimm says he is grateful for, and intrigued with, Pizzo’s determination.
Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.