After 34 years, lost football championship ring is reunited with owner

Teresa Runyan was rummaging through a collection of her deceased father’s treasures of old watches and other knickknacks when an unusual object caught her attention.

It was a high school state football championship ring, which was among the unclaimed items left behind by guests at the Silver Spur motel in Dodge City, Kan., where her father had been the head of maintenance.

“I went through his stuff and thought, ‘What do we have here?’ ” said Runyan, a longtime Bonner Springs resident.

Seven hours away in Benton, Ark., Mike Richards had given up hope decades ago that he would ever find the ring he lost on a church choir trip that traveled through Dodge City.

Now, 34 years later, Richards has his ring back.

Richards, now a 52-year-old sheriff’s lieutenant, earned the ring in 1977 when he was backup linebacker and special teams player for the Benton High School football team. He lost it three years later during an overnight stay at a motel on the way to Colorado Springs.

“Find it after 34 years? Lord, no,” Richards said. “I hadn’t thought about it. You don’t expect to see something like that again.”

On Saturday, Richards and his wife drove up from Benton to meet the Runyans, retrieve the lost treasure and treat them to a steak dinner.

“I’m so glad we found the owner and he’s so happy,” Runyan said. “I guess it (the ring) really meant a lot to him.”

Richards realized the ring was missing the morning after he and other choir members swam at the Silver Spur in Dodge City 34 years ago.

He and his roommates frantically combed through their motel room but couldn’t find the ring. As the bus pulled away from the motel, Richards continued to look through his personal items, and he asked others to look through theirs.

The bus driver pulled over about 20 miles outside Dodge City so everyone could search their suitcases. No luck. Another search at the next motel was fruitless, too.

“It probably got knocked off somewhere and somebody picked it up and put it in the lost and found,” Richards said.

Richards said he eventually gave up hope.

After graduation, Richards attended Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., on a football scholarship. He now works for the Saline County sheriff’s office just southwest of Little Rock.

Every now and then, Richards still thought about the missing ring. Twenty years ago, he asked the company that made the ring if they could make him a copy. But the company had long since gotten rid of the mold and casing.

After Runyan’s father died, family members went through his personal belongings in Dodge City, where they found the ring in a wooden box about eight years ago with other unclaimed items from the motel.

Runyan said she began trying to find the ring’s owner about five years ago. Her grandson gave her an assist, posting a note about the missing ring on the Benton High School website bulletin board.

Then last fall, Richards and some friends were at a high school football game when one of them noticed the post.

“My friend said, ‘I think I just found it,’ ” Richards recalled. “I said bull …”

Richards had been on the website but hadn’t paid attention to the bulletin board, he said.

Richards soon contacted Runyan. He wanted to drive right away to Bonner Springs, but the harsh winter forced him to wait until last weekend.

Because the ring now fits only Richards’ pinkie finger, he plans to lock it away for safekeeping.

“It might not mean something to somebody else, but the ring means a lot to me,” Richards said.