Michigan woman finds decades-old ring from former Gulfport high school

Michigan woman finds decades-old ring from former Gulfport high school

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Getting a class ring is a memorable moment for many students. Not only is it a symbol of upcoming adulthood, it's a token of remembrance.

And that's exactly why one woman wants to reunite a nearly 50-year-old ring with its rightful owner.

Michigan resident Randi Rathbun recently lost her grandfather, Elmer Whaley, to Alzheimer's. Whaley, his granddaughter says, was a collector of all things.

"He would find things and keep everything he found. Trinkets, pencils and pens, baseball caps," said Rathbun.

So as Rathbun went through his toolbox, she wasn't surprise to find yet another trinket. However, she was surprised at its historical significance.

"My husband cleaned it up and it is a class ring from 33rd Ave High School graduating class of 1967," said Rathbun.

Built in 1954 during the times of separate but equal, a state archives website says the school actually dates back to 1921. The website says in part:

"Designed in the International style by Gulfport architect Milton B.E. Hill, 33rd Avenue High School tells an important story about race relations and the equalization period in Mississippi. During the 1940s and 50s, Mississippi sought to provide a system of education that was less unequal than before by building new facilities for African-American students, hoping to stave off efforts to desegregate the state's schools. When Gulfport Public Schools were integrated in 1969, 33rd Avenue High School was closed."

The school closed in 1969, just two years after public schools in Gulfport were integrated. Because of the ring's rich history, Rathbun is eager to return it.

"The ring itself is absolutely breathtaking. Someone was very proud to wear this ring," said Rathbun. "I would love to reunite this ring with its owner or the family of its owner. I'm not even sure how my grandfather came to have it."

Anyone with information about who the class ring belongs to is asked to contact Rathbun at randi.rathbun@gmail.com or 248-648-5656.

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