Calgarian Chris Spronk read last weekend about the return of a precious grad class ring lost 37 years ago in Calgary — found by a member of a metal detecting group called the Ring Finders — and it reminded him of a terrible loss in his own life.
He decided to reach out, and posted something in the comments section of the CBC Calgary Facebook page.
The ring he lost 25 years ago, while tossing a football at Sikome Lake, was very special to him.
"I lost my mom when I was young, when I was 20 years old. And the Christmas before she passed away, she had all of the gold that she had ever worn or owned in her life melted down and designed into these two rings — one for me and one for my brother," Spronk told the Calgary Eyeopener.
"They were, you know, signet rings with our initials carved into them, with raw gold in the background — very distinctive rings. So it had a lot of meaning to me. And, you know, I wore it proudly."
Two years later, Spronk lost the ring at the manmade lake in Fish Creek Provincial Park.
"Unfortunately, stuff happens," he said. "I was throwing a ball, I looked down, and the ring was gone."
For 25 years, Spronk says, he thought about the ring every time he drove past Lake Sikome in southeast Calgary. He and his brother Brian, who understood the personal value of the ring, returned to the lake many times to look for it, even using metal detectors and screens to sift through the sand. Eventually, he lost hope.
"I'd given up on this ring long ago, just because it was gold and if it was found, it was going to be melted down," he said.
Then last week, Spronk read the story on CBC Calgary's Facebook page. He'd had no idea a group like Ring Finders existed.
"I was genuinely happy for the person, to see something like that returned, and just kind of put an off-the-hip comment saying, 'Oh, that's really cool. You know, I lost a ring in Sikome 25 years ago. Maybe I need to wait another 12 years for mine to come back,' or something like that," Spronk said.
Someone on the page encouraged Spronk to check out the Calgary metal detector's club Facebook page.
He made a request to join, and outlined his story on the club page.
"The admin at first kind of said, not a chance, never going to find it, the sand has been changed there, it's been 25 years," he said. "I know it was a long shot, a huge long shot. But she also tagged this fellow, Kevin. And 10 minutes later, I got a message from somebody I didn't know, named Kevin."
Spronk opened the message from Kevin Niefer.
"I may have your ring," the message read.
Niefer, a local realtor who has been a metal detectorist for 30 years, joined the Calgary Eyeopener to describe his side of the events, which started with him finding the ring at Lake Sikome about 25 years ago on a routine outing.
Niefer said he has "a few hundred" rings in his collection — but this one stood out in his memory.
"It just rang a bell because it was so unique at the time. And the inscription inside said, 'Chris, love mom.' And I'm just going, 'Wow, poor guy.' I remember finding that and going man, that's pretty brutal, to lose that."
'Most guys just melt them down'
Niefer said he has kept the ring in his collection for 25 years. He has never been one to melt down the gold he finds while out with his metal detecting gear.
"Most guys just melt them down or pawn them off, and I've kept them over 30 years," he said. "It just didn't feel right, I guess, to do that, to melt them down."
And Spronk, now reunited with his ring, is grateful for that.
"You know, it means the world. It's this gratitude that I can't express, just the fact that I do have it back and just the emotions that I'm feeling because it was so unexpected, so unplanned," he said.
"And just I'm thankful for people like Kevin because it shows there's good in the world. There's people with integrity, there's people with conviction that stand by things like this — that want to see good."
Listen to the full interview on the Calgary Eyeopener here: