33-year-old class ring found raking reunited with owner
By Emily McFarlan Miller firstname.lastname@example.org February 20, 2013 3:24PM
Beth Orticelli (right) and Melissa Patterson pose for a portrait after Patterson found a lost high school class ring from 1980 that belonged to Orticelli. Orticelli, a teacher, just today (Tuesday) told her 3rd grade class, "It's not finders keepers, loosers weapers." Patterson added, "That's what's great about a class ring, 1/2 the work was already done for me, (her name was inscribed) all I had to do next was find her." After finding the ring in the yard of her Elgin home Patterson contacted Orticelli who's name was inscribed in the ring. The two met to exchange the ring on Saturday. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 22, 2013 10:08AM
ELGIN — Melissa Patterson’s home is full of stories.
Patterson began researching the Prairie Street house, built in 1893, after she moved in about three years ago.
The original owner was a machinist at the Elgin Watch Factory, she said. His son grew up to be a reporter for National Geographic. She learned that information while looking up the name she thought a neighborhood kid had scratched into her window.
But the best story came with the ring she turned up while raking her yard last fall — a class ring she reunited with its owner just this past weekend.
“I was curious to find out how this got in my yard,” she said. “I was curious about it, and I’ve always been really good with the Internet. It just so happened everything clicked together.”
When Patterson, a graphic designer, brought the mud-caked ring inside and cleaned it, the letters emerged: “Schaumburg High School” and “Class of 1980.” That was the year she was born, she said.
Inside was a name, engraved in the metal.
“I told my husband, ‘Oh, what a fun project! I’m going to find this person,’ ” she said.
Name after name
It took Patterson about an hour of Googling and Facebooking to track down Beth Orticelli of St. Charles, which she admitted technology makes “too easy. It’s also a little scary at some point, too.”
Initially, she couldn’t find Beth Orticelli because her maiden name was engraved inside the ring. But she did find a man with the same last name — who turned out to be Orticelli’s brother, she said. Googling his name led her to a White Pages listing that associated him with a Beth by a still different last name, she said.
Googling her turned up an email address at St. Charles Community Unit School District 303 and a listing for a younger woman — her daughter, she said. She Facebooked the younger woman’s name. That woman was friends with a Beth by yet another last name.
Facebook showed Beth Orticelli had been remarried the year before, and she also turned up on the District 303 website, Patterson said. So the Elgin woman took a shot and emailed her at her district address.
Nothing happened for months, she said, and “I felt weird. I didn’t want this person to think I was stalking her.” But her family suggested maybe the message had gone to the junk folder in Orticelli’s email and encouraged her to follow up with a Facebook message.
In fact, the message had gone into the junk folder, Orticelli said, and she at first thought the Facebook message might be a solicitation, too, when she read it that night. It took her a minute, she said, but then it all came back: She had traded class rings with a friend in 1980. The friend had moved to Elgin after high school, into what is now Patterson’s home. They had lost touch.
The ring apparently had been lost in Patterson’s yard for 25 years, Orticelli said.
“It was so shocking when I read the messages to me, and then it was so exciting to go over to meet her,” she said. “It was such a great act of kindness you don’t see every day.”
She hadn’t really missed the ring much, she said, but the fact Patterson went to such great lengths to return it means “it definitely means more to me now than it ever would before.”
It inspired Orticelli to do a little searching of her own, feeling bad because she wasn’t sure what she had done with her friend’s ring. She unexpectedly found the ring in a box of high school keepsakes as she was going through her closet.
She already has reached out to her old high school friend: “Now it’s the domino effect. I found my ring, and now I have to get your ring back to you.”
And it’s inspired a lesson she plans to share with the third-grade class she teaches at Corron Elementary School in South Elgin — that maybe “finders keepers” isn’t the way the world should work, she said.
Orticelli said she feels as if she’s made a new friend as well.
“It’s just nice meeting a nice girl like her, and I made a friend out of it. I really think we’ll stay in touch,” she said.
Patterson agreed. And, she said, “In the long run, I was happy to return it.”
“I look at it as good karma.”