Jeremi Alexander sold one of his stepfather’s cows for $450 to pay for his class ring in 1991.
The ring has a large ruby— Alexander’s birthstone— set in a gold band with the Parkview High School Viking flexing his bicep on top.
The last time Alexander saw the ring, he was 19 years old and sitting on a bench in Burbank Park on Janesville’s south side waiting to see his mother, Gloria Doherty. He dropped the ring after taking hallucinogenic drugs, and it remained lost for 26 years.
But thanks to a metal-detecting hobbyist looking in the right place, Alexander held the ring for the first time in two decades Wednesday afternoon—in nearly the exact spot he lost it in the park.
Mike Morris of Afton has “hunted” for treasure with a metal detector around Janesville for years. He said he found Alexander’s ring in the park last year.
Morris doesn’t sell what he finds. Instead, he keeps the valuable items in a brown, fringed leather bag and plans to eventually bury them for his grandchildren to find, he said.
But Alexander’s ring was special. It was the first and only men’s class ring Morris found and had Alexander’s named engraved inside the band.
Morris was hesitant to look for Alexander. He didn’t know the circumstances under which the ring was lost and feared it could bring up bad memories for its owner, he said.
But with help from one of his metal-detecting friends, Morris found Alexander through Facebook and asked to meet him in the park Wednesday to return the ring.
“(It was) the most unbelievable thing,” Morris said.
He added he never would have found the ring if the city of Janesville didn’t offer permits to allow metal detectors in its parks. He hopes other communities might see the story of Alexander’s lost ring and loosen their rules regarding metal detectors.
A ‘Christmas miracle’
Alexander has been sober since March 6.
His struggle with alcohol began after his mother died by suicide in 2013. At his worst, Alexander said he was drinking entire bottles of vodka every day.
Since becoming sober, Alexander is convinced God has been sending him small miracles to help him in his journey.
His sister, Michelle Alexander, 44, recently gave birth to Abigail Gloria, named after their mother, Jeremi Alexander said. Becoming an uncle has changed his life.
He felt getting his ring back was a “Christmas miracle.” Being alive despite 30 years of poor decisions is the third miracle, he said.
Alexander found sobriety with help from Crossroads Counseling Center in Janesville and friends at Rock County Cycles, he said.
In the last nine months, he has been making amends for bad decisions, including intoxicated driving arrests, one of which he said he was in court for Wednesday afternoon after he retrieved his ring.
Alexander, who grew up working on his stepfather Kirby Doherty’s farm in Footville and formerly worked in construction, hopes to soon find a job and continue on a good path, he said.
He and Morris shared a couple of hugs Wednesday in the park. Across the street at Jackson Elementary School, a digital sign flashed a message appropriate for the occasion: “Be awesome.”
“It still fits,” Alexander said with a smile, fighting back tears that eventually came trickling down.