Martin’s class ring finds way back to finger after 31 years in Lake Huron

Leigh Gray Martin, a Markle resident and 1984 graduate of Huntington North High School, holds her class ring, which was found and returned to her this summer after being lost in Lake Huron for 31 years.
Leigh Gray Martin, a Markle resident and 1984 graduate of Huntington North High School, holds her class ring, which was found and returned to her this summer after being lost in Lake Huron for 31 years. Photo by Steve Clark.

Leigh Martin's class ring spent 31 years on a stranger's finger.

That finger, however, didn't belong to a person; it belonged to the state of Michigan.

The lower peninsula of the Great Lakes State is said to look like a mitten, with the "thumb" jutting out from the state's northeast side. Albert E. Sleeper State Park is located on the tip of the thumb, and that's where Martin lost her class ring in the summer of 1983.

Back then, Martin was Leigh Gray, a student at Huntington North High School. Along with friend Ginny Manning and family, Martin traveled to the state park for vacation. The trip centered on camping and relaxing in Lake Huron, which is where Martin's ring disappeared.

Martin's class ring was like any other, emblazoned with her first name, the school's name and her graduating year, which was 1984. The face of Huntington North's Viking mascot was engraved on one side of the ring with track and field iconography - an acknowledgement of Martin's days as a runner in middle school - on the other. Martin's initials, L.A.G., were also etched on the ring, which was topped off by a light blue stone.

Martin had worn the ring while swimming out in the lake one day and stopped to admire it.

"I'm just standing in the water, it's shining in the sun, I'm just fiddling with it - and plop, right in the water," she recalls. "I just froze."

Frantically, Martin started searching through the knee-deep water for the ring, combing through the sand beneath her to see where it had landed.

But it was to no avail.

"It was gone," says Martin. "There was no finding it.
"So, the rest of my trip was like, ‘Oh, my goose is
cooked!' I didn't get in any trouble; I suppose my parents thought it was anguish enough that I lost the ring."

For a while, Martin says she considered replacing the ring. However, she never did, and as time passed, she forgot about it.

That is, until this summer.

From out of nowhere, Martin received a text message from friend Kim Brown Nelson informing her of an interesting post left on the Facebook page for the 30-year reunion of Huntington North's Class of 1984. Ralph Moeller, of Warren, MI, made the post and claimed that he had found a class ring, which sounded like it just might be Martin's.

Nelson provided Martin with contact information for the page's manger, Cindy Middaugh Allred, who forwarded Martin an email sent to her by Moeller. From there, Martin got in touch with Moeller directly.

A metal detecting hobbyist, Moeller had visited Albert E. Sleeper State Park in May and discovered the ring with his metal detector, Martin learned.

She was amused when she learned where he found it.

"He found it, I think, exactly in the same spot I lost it, because he found it at Sleeper State Park, in knee-deep water, with a metal detector," Martin says. "So, why I couldn't find it, I suppose I was nervous and scared, it was probably right there."

Moeller spotted "Huntington North" on the ring and the graduating year of 1984, which led him to the Facebook page.

"We talked through email," says Martin of her correspondence with Moeller about the ring. "He said, ‘Yes, I have it - I'll get it right in the mail.' And within a few days, I had it."

Holding the ring for the first time since she was a teenager was a surreal experience for Martin, given the shape it was in.

"It is so funny: I lost this ring 31 years ago and it is in the exact same condition as when I lost it," she says. "That ring laid in Lake Huron for 31 years."

Martin is grateful for the people who played a part in her getting back the ring - Nelson, Allred and, especially, Moeller, for plucking it off Michigan's thumb and returning it to her after so long.

That she happened to get the ring back during the year that marks her 30th anniversary of graduating from Huntington North makes it that much more special, Martin says, and encourages her to attend the reunion.

"It does," she muses. "It really does."