Winlock High School class ring from 1963, after 50 years on the bank of stream.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
Chehalis attorney Dana Williams hasn’t lived in Winlock since 1963, the year he graduated from high school and joined the military.
But he left something behind in the south Lewis County town a half a century ago he never thought he’d see again.
The year was 1962. He’d already bought and was wearing his high school class ring, but it vanished during a Saturday night dance for teenagers at the community building.
Williams was surprised when he got a call last week from local historian and museum operator Roy Richards.
“Roy said, ‘did you lose your class ring?’ ” Williams recounted at the courthouse on Friday. “I said, as a matter of fact, I did.”
The ring had disappeared near Olequa Creek and that’s exactly where it had turned up a few days earlier.
Forty-five year-old Janice Rouska was visiting a friend, who lives in a house next to the community building when she went out back and walked down some rail-road-tie steps to the creek.
She was just taking in the scenery since the water was running high and the snow had fallen, Rouska said.
“I cleared some leaves so I could see the steps and there was a toe ring,” Rouska said, describing a small band the color of a penny.
“Then I moved some more leaves, and there was the class ring,” she said.
Her friend wanted to keep it, she said, but she said no, it belongs to someone.
Rouska visited a local business where an acquaintance examined it, and they could see the year 1963 embedded in the design, she said. She took a trip to the library to see if they had any old high school year books and was directed to Richards.
He runs the Renegade Rooster, a small museum at his Rhoades Road home. It’s all things Winlock.
Among his collection is a roster with the names of every student who graduated from Winlock High School since 1911.
The ring had the initials D.W., Richards said. Only three names like that turned up: Doug Wilson, Diane Werden and Dana Williams, he said.
Richards called Wilson and learned his class ring was sitting in his drawer.
Richards and Rouska learned that Werden had lost her class ring, but it had a white background, not blue like the one found about three feet from the creek.
And so Richards phoned Williams.
All are stunned the tiny piece of jewelry survived five decades apparently in almost the exact spot.
“It’s amazing,” Rouska said. “Considering how much water and dirt had to have been over it all those 50 years.”
The creek itself hasn’t changed much, except for the usual seasonal transformations, according to Richards. In the winter it’s very deep and fast moving and in the summer, one can walk across it, he said.
Williams picked up the ring on Thursday at the Winlock home where Rouska lives.
She’d run it under the faucet and taken a toothbrush to it.
“It’s in beautiful condition, although the silver is little tarnished,” Williams said before he took it out of a drawer at his Chehalis office and placed it on his pinky finger.
It cost about three month’s of the his teenage wages, he said.
The lawyer couldn’t say enough about the efforts Rouska made to track him down, but he was vague about the circumstances under which he became separated from his class ring.
“Let’s just say I was tossing something during a winter eve in 1962, and the ring slipped off behind the old community building,” he said.