Veteran's ring, lost for 30 years, finds its way home on 4th of July

Good Samaritan enlists help of News4Jax to track down class ring's owner

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville woman who found a man's class ring about 30 years ago in Georgia was inspired by a recent News4Jax story to give it one more shot to find the long-lost owner.

Anchor Kent Justice reported Monday that a Navy veteran living in Jacksonville will soon be reunited with his missing high school class ring after it was found by a good Samaritan in his hometown of Tyler, Texas.

Gayle Coleman saw the story and decided to enlist the help of News4Jax to track down the owner of a class ring she found three decades ago while planting flowers near Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah.

She had only a few clues: It was a 1977 class ring from Menominee High School in Michigan, and it was inscribed with the name “Brian Bengtson.”

Coleman said she did everything she could to find Bengtson herself.

“I like to treat people the way I want to be treated, so I tried to find the rightful owner several times throughout the 30-something years,” Coleman said.

She said she searched Bengtson's name “when the internet got started and we were back on the old dial-up way.”

She also left messages at the school with her name and email address and tried finding him on Facebook when it first started up, but she had no luck.

Coleman decided to give it one more go after seeing Monday's happy-ending for Navy veteran Travis Smith. She messaged News4Jax, asking for help.

Reporter Ashley Spicer got to work and was able to track down information about Bengtson.

He served in the U.S. Army at Hunter Army Airfield, and he passed away in 2014 at the age of 55 in his hometown of Menominee.

Rather than stop there, Spicer tracked down a number for Bengtson's sister, Barb Sanders, who lives in Menominee. She called to tell her about Coleman's discovery.

Sanders (pictured above with Brian) was shocked that Coleman had been able to hold onto her brother's ring for so long.

“Thirty years is a long time, and I remember that ring. I remember him wearing it,” Sanders said. “Never in a million years would I have expected this.”

Four years after her brother's death, Sanders said it will be nice to have a piece of him back.

“You never stop missing him, of course,” she said. “We're going to be very happy to have it back. It's a wonderful keepsake. I'm very grateful.”

She said it's fitting that her brother served in the military and she got the good news call from Spicer on Independence Day. She's thankful Coleman, who will mail the ring to her Thursday, never gave up on finding the ring's owner.

Coleman, herself a U.S. Coast Guard veteran, said the Fourth of July was the perfect day to end her three-decade quest.

“It's so phenomenal. I'm ecstatic and happy (to have found him), but yet I'm sad because Brian is no longer with us,” Coleman said, choking back tears. “I'm glad that I touched his family's heart today.”