cheap mlb jerseys for sale A gold ring lost a century ago became a personal quest for two Iowa strangers
Twenty one years ago, Tom O’Neillbought the five bedroom house at 1332 Boyd St. in Des Moines that stands across the street from the main campus of Grand View University. He took a hammer and saw to the structure as a sort of therapy as he rebuilt his own life in the wake of a divorce.
O’Neill, 55, wasn’t “emotionally literate” enough at the time, he now says,to realize what he was up to. He didn’t appreciate how he was leveraging skills honed alongside his brother in law renovating housesaround Chicago todistract himself as he also patchedup his own psyche.
Tom O is shown in 1997 in front of the house at 1332 Boyd St. in Des Moines where he lived. That year, his roommate discovered a ring in the backyard. O waited 20 years for the rise of social media to more easily find the ring owner. (Photo: Special to the Register)
A year later he welcomed a friend,Todd Friedrickson, as a renter toshare the spacious home originally built in 1912.
Today, both he and Friedrickson are tech savvy IT professionals. But at the time, O’Neill was employed as a locksmith.
In May 1997, Friedrickson decided to plant a garden in the backyard. He grabbed a shovel and began to peel away the sod from a patch about 8 feet square.
While stabbing the black soil, his ears perked up at the faintest sound. Was that the chime of metal on metal?
He pawed through the dirt and discovered a gold ring. It was thin, worn, cracked, loose enough to fit around a thumb. He walked inside the house and handed it over tohis friend and landlord.
And then Friederickson forgot about it for 20 years.
O’Neill, however, saved the ring. He didn’t pawn it. He didn’t melt it down to create his own new piece of jewelry. He kept iteven after he sold the house in 2006 and made his way to his current home of Fairfield.
He stashed the ring among a basket of trinkets that also includes his own high school class ring, photos, a necklace and other objects that despite their compact size are laden with personal meaning. He’s fascinated by these telltale mementos that we leave behind, whether by losing them or upon death.
What O’Neill wanted to do was track down the ring’s owner. But in the 1990s, he knew that that would require an epic and potentially expensive searchconsidering the available technology.
He was compelled to learn more about the history of the ring by a core belief: He considers the homeswhere we play out most of our lives and the artifacts we hold close to be almost sacred objects. It was a gateway into one family’s cherished legacy, and fate had placed it into his hands.
“It’s a way of reaching into the future,” he said, “or reaching into the past.”
Ring appears on Forgotten IowaSo O’Neill waited.
He took note of the rising tide of social media and the rest of our digital spider web within which we eagerly entangle ourselves on a daily basis.
He moved on to other relationships. O’Neill never fathered children, which only strengthenedhis resolve that we should use everyday objects tohand down a sense of ourselves to future generations.
The French film “Amelie”that hit theaters in 2001 also shaped his thinking. Its plot revolves arounda young woman in Paris who discovers a tin box of children’s toys hidden in the wall of her apartment. She sets out to reunite the toys with their owner, now an adult. It’sone of O’Neill’s favorite movies.
Then came Facebook.
The Forgotten Iowa Historical Society,a Facebook group that small town librarian Daniel Wetherell founded three years ago that now boastsmore than 30,000 members, became a focus for O’Neill’s fascination. Its daily posts revel in nostalgia, personal artifacts and vintage snapshots.
Aphoto of an old, rusty key made O’Neillremember his mystery ring. Maybe now is the time, he thought to himself, to take a photo of the ring and post it to the group.
So he did.
He listed the house’s address and explained how 20 years ago his roommate accidentally discovered the 10 karat gold treasure. He outlined his standard property searchon the that found nobody matchingthe initials inscribed on the inner surface.
At that time he thought those initials were “BKN.”
“I hope to find the descendants of the original owner to give them this ring,” he wrote.
After waiting 20 years, he watched the minutes tick by to see whether his patience would pay off.
A man obsessed with historyTrevor Williams of Des Moines says he has precious little free time for surfing TV or browsing Facebook. He keeps busy restoring antique houses through his Des Moines Building and Land Corp. contracting company. At home he and his wife chase around theirrambunctious 4 year old son.