By Ned Barnett
RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - On Friday in High Point, North Carolina, Thomas Wray Kidd plans to meet a man who will deliver a piece of jewelry and a part of his past he thought was gone forever.
It is a class of '62 ring, gold with a red gemstone from Jackson High School in Jackson, North Carolina. Kidd has not seen the ring since he gave it to his girlfriend in nearby Roanoke Rapids half a century ago, and she accidentally dropped it in her toilet mid-flush.
The girlfriend, Dianne Shearin, was aghast. Her father had a plumber pull the toilet and snake the pipes. "The plumber finally told them, 'Hey, that ring is gone,'" Kidd recalled in an interview Monday.
But it was not gone for good. When a storm pipe collapsed in Roanoke Rapids recently and a repair crew responded, a foreman named Dwayne Johnson found the long lost ring.
It was just a few blocks from where it had gone into the sewer in 1960.
Johnson took the ring to a local jewelry store, where jeweler Steve Brantley spent three hours cleaning it back to a bright gold.
The ring bore the initials TWK. With Johnson's consent, a hunt began to find the owner. It took a network of calls, but there weren't many possibilities. Only 25 students graduated from Jackson High in 1962, a few years before the school closed.
In High Point, Kidd got a call from a former classmate who still lives near the rural community where he grew up. She told him about the ring. Then Brantley called, offering to mail it or deliver it personally when he visited family in High Point.
"He said, 'Just wait and bring it to me,' which I'm glad he did because I want to see the look on his face when he's reunited with his ring after 51 years," Brantley told Reuters.
Kidd, now 67 and retired, is impressed with Johnson's honesty in getting the ring back to its owner.
He is also happy that he will once more be able to give it to the woman he calls his "soul mate and best friend."
Despite the toilet mishap, Kidd married Dianne Shearin in 1964. They're still married today.
"If we ever had a problem, we always talked it out," he said. "It's kind of like when she lost the ring. We were concerned about it, but not so much that it would affect anything."
(Edited by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)