DUNKIRK, NY (WGRZ) -- A class ring- with its unique emblems and engravings- often tells a story. But it's only now that this ring's final chapter is written.
Fourteen years ago Jules Thurn was walking along Sheridan Beach in Dunkirk, when something rolling in and out of the water caught his eye.
"So I reached down into the silt and sand and picked it up and looked at it and I could even read on it, it was a 1971 Bishop Neumann High School graduation ring," said Thurn.
And with a good scrubbing Thurn could even make out the tiny initials engraved inside- P-R-L. For years he tried to put a name to those letters with no luck. He kept the ring and his pages of notes in a safe place, never giving up hope.
"Someday maybe we'll figure out a way to find out who the ring belonged to in the first place," said Thurn.
Just weeks ago, Thurn's search brought him to the right place - the internet. He found a partial class roster from Bishop Neumann's 1971 graduating class. While he didn't find a name matching the initials, he did find Gary Pignataro, a former Neumann teacher now on the Dunkirk School Board.
Thurn and Pignataro met at a local coffee shop with Pignataro's 1971 yearbook in hand. They narrowed the initials down to two possible men. One of them was Paul R. LaFleur.
"I came home looked it up in the phone book. LaFleur, there's only three entries," Thurn said.
With the third number Thurn called, he reached LaFleur's older brother, who passed along the message. The mystery was solved.
LaFleur drove from Darien Monday night to Dunkirk to retrieve his ring and meet the man who worked so hard to find him.
He lost his ring in Lake Erie the summer after he graduated, 41 years ago.
"Raised my kids and came out and swam in the lake many times. I used to stand there and ponder at the lake and wonder how many miles out it might be," LaFleur said.
Never did he realize it was right under his nose. It washed ashore just a few hundred yards from where he lost it.
"I don't understand how this could go 41 years and come out looking like that. But it must be an omen or something," said LaFleur. "My dad always told me people will surprise you in your lifetime and restore your faith in humanity when you think that they're all not bothering. And that's how I feel about Mr. Thurn."
The ring is especially meaningful since Bishop Neumann closed in 1979.
"That school closed down so I really don't even have a school to go by and show my kids," said LaFleur.
For Pignataro, who taught at the school for 12 years and also taught LaFleur's freshman social studies class, he couldn't be happier that he was able to help solve the mystery.
"It's really satisfying to me personally," said Pignataro.
Thurn says he never gave up searching for the ring's owner because of a similar experience he had years ago. He lost his wallet in college and two weeks later it was returned to him.
"In the back of my mind I always remembered that somebody did something nice for me and if I could find the original owner it would just make me happy," said Thurn.