Memento still fits Penny Elsenpeter Collinsworth
If Penny Elsenpeter Collinsworth returns this summer for the Forest Lake High School Class of 1988’s 25-year reunion, it’s a good bet she will be wearing her class ring.
The former Ranger had written off the memento as lost for good, but sheer luck and a child’s curiosity recently led to a joyful reunion.
“It still looks brand new, Collinsworth said. “Twenty-five years later, you’d think it’s seen better days, but it still fits me. I’ve been wearing it.”
Lost in the Shuffle
After graduating high school, Collinsworth moved to Oregon to be near family. It was in this time between high school and the birth of her first child in 1994 that she lost her class ring. It likely happened during a move in Pendleton, Ore.
The ring’s absence was noted.
“I looked and looked and just figured it was going to be left in that house I lived in,” Collinsworth said.
Life went on. She moved back to Forest Lake a decade ago and on to Annandale two years ago. For the mother of two, her class ring was far out of her mind.
The ring was not lost, though, simply misplaced. It had been found over a decade ago by a woman and her husband who were out for a walk in Pendleton. When no one came forward to claim it, the woman tucked it away in a jewelry box.
That woman became a grandmother, and this February she happened to show the box to her grandson. The boy, as a young lad would be apt to do, asked the story behind each piece of jewelry. Together, grandmother and grandson looked through a magnifying glass and read the inscription: “FLHS. Forest Lake.”
The woman emailed Connie Ramberg, the assistant to Forest Lake Schools Superintendent Linda Madsen. Ramberg passed word to communications coordinator Ross Bennett, and a search was launched to find the ring’s owner.
Bennett enlisted high school registrar Karen McCurdy, who scoured the yearbook. The ring held several clues: Its design included 1988 and the initials P.E. Also, it was clearly a woman’s. Those leads were plenty for McCurdy to conclude that Penny Elsenpeter had lost her class ring.
Bennett reached out to Collinsworth on Facebook. (Fortunately, she had included her maiden name in her account title.) It made for quite the surprise for Collinsworth, who works at a golf course pro shop.
“I was so excited I jumped up and down for joy,” she said.
Bennett gave the Oregon woman Collinsworth’s contact information and the two talked within days. That conversation provided even more surprising details. The woman had found the ring near the high school in Pendleton, a full 15 blocks from the house where Collinsworth figured she left it. Ironically, the woman’s husband also had lost his high school class ring, only to have it found in a field by a farmer plowing.
“Thank goodness for her for finding me and tracking me down,” Collinsworth said.
Bennett, too, can relate to Collinsworth, having lost his class ring years ago. That shared experience made this reunion extra sweet for him, as well.
“It was a lot of fun,” Bennett said. “I was a little bummed out when I lost mine, so I figured it would be really nice to help reunite a lady with her ring.”
Believe it or not, Collinsworth’s story has unfolded just as her son, a senior, is deciding whether he wants a class ring of his own.
“We’ve been tossing it around,” she said with a laugh.