It's been nearly half a century, but the beloved treasure is finally back where it belongs.

By Meghan Overdeep
December 07, 2019
Brittney Smith

One night in the summer of 1972, 21-year-old Kenneth Williams was walking on a Jekyll Island beach with his girlfriend, Deborah Colley, and two other couples when his beloved senior class ring slipped off his finger. It was a gold class of 1969 ring from Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Georgia, and it had a red stone, and Kenneth's initials, KWW, engraved inside. He had intended to give it to Deborah.

They pulled out their flashlights and retraced their steps, but were unable to find the ring. Kenneth, who died in 2009, would never see it again.

Forty five years later, Kenneth and Deborah's son Daniel made a drive he never thought he'd make: from Phenix City, Alabama, to LaGrange, Georgia. to pick up the ring his father assumed was lost forever. Because it was lost before he was born, Daniel had no idea the ring existed until he received a Facebook message from Brittney Smith of Tallapoosa, Georgia, telling him she thought she had his father's class ring, AL.com reports. She asked him to describe it.

He called his mother, who remembered the ring immediately. She gave Daniel a description, and he called Brittney back. It was the ring.

"The charm of it is that she wants to wear it," Daniel told AL.com, even though his parents divorced in 1989. "To put it on her finger means a lot to me."

Brittney and her family, who were enjoying their annual vacation to Jekyll Island last week, were looking for seashells one morning when they came across something in the sand. "As we were walking, I saw the shine of a quarter. When I bent down to pick it up, the ring was stuck in the clay right beside it," she recalled to Southern Living. "If the quarter had not been there, I probably wouldn't have even seen it."

It was in incredible shape, even the engraving had stood the test of time. They knew immediately that the ring was special, so they washed it off and put it in their bag of shells. Later that night her husband Jaeson and her father Craig Ellis began researching Glynn Academy. Only one member of the class of 1969 had the initials KWW: Kenneth Williams.

"I was in tears," Daniel recalled to AL.com of the moment he learned of his father's long-lost treasure. "This 6-foot-8 guy was in tears."

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With the ring back in his possession, Daniel told AL.com that he plans to "wear it for a little while," then keep it in a fireproof box along with clippings of newspaper articles telling the story. His younger sister Leslie, plans to tuck the ring into her bouquet when she gets married next year.

Brittney tells Southern Living that she and her family are proud to have played a role in the story, but feel strongly that their actions weren't anything extraordinary. "We feel that we did what anyone else would do in the same situation... to try to get the ring back to its rightful owner," she said.

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