Kentucky man returns class ring to owner after being lost for nearly 30 years
Published 10:32 am Saturday, March 13, 2021
Gordon Lee Smith’s grandfather quit school in the third grade to farm tobacco in Ohio County.
His own father never finished high school and lied about his age to enlist in the military during World War II.
So when Smith, now 52, became the first man in the family to graduate from high school in 1987, his family was proud. His father was so pleased he spent $125 to buy him a Bullitt Central High School ring.
When Smith lost it back in 1992, he didn’t have the heart to tell his father it was gone.
But as I watched him slip it on his finger for the first time in 29 years, I could tell in his eyes that he was smiling behind his mask.
After all, it’s been missing for more than half his life, and he thought it was gone for good.
Truly, it might have been, if Rex Moorman hadn’t picked it up.
Moorman, who grew up in Louisville but now lives in Breckinridge County, has been keeping the ring safe for nearly three decades. He doesn’t remember quite where he found it, but he suspects he picked it up one night on the side of the road when his motorcycle broke down.
In nearly 30 years, the details have gotten a bit flimsy for Moorman.
He remembers calling Bullitt Central to see if they could help him track down the “Gordon Lee Smith” whose name was engraved inside. That didn’t work.
At one point he flipped through a phone book, too, but with a last name like “Smith,” there wasn’t much those pages could do. Not to mention Moorman lived in Jefferson County, and Smith wouldn’t have been listed in his phone book anyway.
So instead, the ring sat in his dresser drawer untouched for years, and he always hoped eventually he might find a way to get it back to its owner.
It wasn’t until Moorman signed up for Facebook about a year ago that he tried using social media to track Smith down. When he found a Gordon Smith, who went to Bullitt Central High School, he knew it must be him. They exchanged messages and a couple of phone calls, and eventually, they agreed to meet up at a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) hall in south Louisville on Feb. 26.
Smith walked into the hall wearing a mask and a Bullitt Central ballcap to honor his alma mater.
In the 29 years that had passed, Smith had gained 50 pounds and he needed reading glasses to see the inscription inside the ring. Somehow, it still fit, even though so much life had passed between when his father bought it for him and this moment.
Smith explained he’d hardly gotten any wear out of the ring before he lost it. He worked in the food industry for his first four years out of high school, and so even though he was honored to have it, he rarely had an occasion to wear it.
That changed when he took a filing job in an office building in downtown Louisville. Even though he was making minimum wage, he needed to wear a suit to work. He only had two suits to his name, he told me, and he wore the ring because he wanted to look nice.
When his old mustang got a flat tire one day during his commute from Bullitt County to downtown Louisville, he pulled off Interstate 65 to fix it. He remembers messing with the tire while wearing a suit, and somehow, in the chaos of it all, he lost ring.
Now all these years later, he’d found it again.
Smith, who works a desk job now, can finally wear it and revel in that pride that came with it back in 1987.
He has Moorman to thank for that.
“What do I owe you, I’ve got to give you something,” Smith asked.
“You don’t owe me anything,” Moorman said.
“I’ve gotta give you something,” Smith insisted.
“Your friendship, how about that.” Moorman said.
“That’s awesome,” he said, turning the ring in his hand. “Wow.”