HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — A ring missing for 40 years was recently reunited with its owner in Hastings.

The silver specialty band — a Class of 1979 ring from Adams Central High School — was returned to its owner, Kerry (Foelgner) Jones of Greeley, Colorado, in an emotional reunion at the home of Laura Jackson just hours before Jones joined former classmates for their 40-year reunion.

Jones remembers removing the ring — along with the sweetheart ring given to her by her then-boyfriend — and placing it atop the restroom counter to wash her hands during a football game her senior year at Adams Central.

“I walked out the door and maybe 10 minutes later turned around looking for them and they were gone,” she told the Hastings Tribune. “I was devastated. I had never owned jewelry before and absolutely adored my rings.

“I just thought some girl picked them up and I’d never see them again. I cried and mourned for a long time. I’ve always told my kids, ‘Don’t ever take your rings off when you’re washing your hands.’ And I never did again.”

News that her ring had been found was delivered by former classmate and close high school friend Robin (Ely) Schilling. It was Schilling’s mother, Willa Rundle, who first learned of its discovery while listening to a radio broadcast earlier this month.

“What got my attention was that it was in the class with my daughter,” Rundle said of the ring. “I knew they were having their 40th reunion, so I got hold of the lady who called about finding the ring (Jackson) and started the conversation with her to see if we could figure out who it was.”

Jackson shared what clues the ring contained to help identify its owner, including the initials K.F., and Patriot and megaphone symbols. From those details, Schilling was able to ascertain that the ring belonged to her longtime friend, a former cheerleader.

Schilling and her mom “had to talk about three times before we got the initials straight,” Schilling said. “At first we thought it was F.K., and there was no one in the class with those initials. When she finally said K.F. I didn’t even have to look for my list of classmates.

“Kerry and I had been tight since fourth grade, so I shot her an email asking, ‘Are you missing your class ring?’ and she got very excited.”

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Schilling connected Jones with the radio broadcast’s website, where she obtained contact information for Jackson and arranged to meet with her when she came to town for the class reunion. The reunification was one neither is likely to forget.

“I don’t even know why it was in my jewelry box,” Jackson said. “My daughter was visiting and we were looking in my jewelry box for my ‘mother’s ring’ — which I found — and when I found it (the class ring) I said, ‘I’m going to find out who owns this ring.’ ”

Jackson thinks it is possible that she and her late husband, Jack, may have purchased the ring at an auction among other pieces of jewelry. Another possible explanation is that Jack, who worked as a janitor at Adams Central during the time the ring went missing, found it and brought it home, where it ended up in his wife’s jewelry box.

Whatever the case, Jackson said she is glad to see it returned to its rightful owner after all these years.

“I don’t know how it got there or how long I had it, but when I found out it was an Adams Central ring, I thought, ‘I will just see if I can find out who owns it,’ ” she said. “I really wanted to get it back to her.”

Jones said the unlikely recovery of her ring still seems surreal. In her mind, the odds of ever seeing it again were slim. It took all her willpower to resist driving straight from Greeley to Hastings to retrieve her prized possession, she said.

“I told her, ‘Hang onto it and take good care of it,’ ” she said with a laugh. “I don’t think people can really grasp the sentimentalism of getting this back. I never thought I’d see it again. I’m very blessed.

“That was a really special time in my life going to Adams Central High School, a lot of amazing memories. So to get this back is really a treasure. How do you put a measure on that?”