On a warm spring afternoon in 1982, Kathy Elswick was locked in a muddy tug-of-war game with classmates and covered with remnants of shaving cream and Silly String from Hilliard High School's pre-graduation ritual of Senior Field Day.
A short time later, she looked at her right hand, and the day's fun suddenly evaporated.
Missing was her class ring, set with a bright blue stone she had selected to represent Hilliard High School.
She and a few friends spent the rest of the afternoon, and several hours during many months afterward, looking for her ring.
Thirty-two years passed. The old Hilliard High School became Memorial Middle School, three new high school buildings were built and Elswick had married Bob Bennett and raised a family in suburban Chicago.
A few weeks ago, though, Kathy Bennett heard an unexpected message on her answering machine: A man from Ohio named Dave Huddle had found her class ring buried in the ground behind Memorial Middle School.
"It's just not a call you get every day. I was shocked and then elated," said Bennett, 50, a children's associate at Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook, Ill.
The July 28 message also brought back a flood of memories.
"I always wore (the ring)," Bennett said.
In lieu of her birthstone of topaz, which she viewed as a dull color, she had chosen a bright blue stone to represent the Wildcats. A comparable shade of blue now is used by Davidson High School, the name her alma mater took when Darby High School opened in 1997 to accommodate the increasing enrollment in the district.
Bennett doesn't recall the price of the ring but said it was a sacrifice for her parents to provide.
"I felt sad because I'd lost something that I wanted, but I felt bad for my parents, too, because I'd lost their investment," she said. "It was a real bummer."
She said she still has pictures from Senior Field Day and could not help but notice the presence of the bright blue ring in pictures taken that morning
"We looked for it for days afterwards," Bennett said. "I'd go back every now and then and look for it.
"It was engraved with my name and I thought someday someone might find it."
Eventually, Bennett accepted it likely was lost forever.
"I never thought I'd see it again," she said.
Then she got the message from Huddle, a member of Buckeye Treasure Hunters, an organization of enthusiasts who use metal detectors to search for buried objects.
Huddle, 49, said another hunter suggested searching behind Memorial Middle School. His friend had permission from the district, Huddle said, and knew the history of the topography behind the former high school building.
Huddle said he found the ring in a grassy area near a set of bleachers for the football field.
"It was buried about six to eight inches," Huddle said. "It was a little oblong, but I could read the year and the initials."
It's not the first class ring Huddle has unearthed, but it is the first item of any kind he was able to return to an owner.
With assistance from district officials, he located and contacted Bennett.
"I'm glad we could find her," said Huddle, whose previous finds include a 1943 class ring in Delaware County and coins from the late 18th century in Fairfield County.
Huddle said he took up the hobby of searching for such objects about three years ago.
"I just think it's really neat to find stuff like that," Huddle said.