Journeys of a Class Ring

Author: Carrie Mitsch Chiarella ’85

ND class ring from Balfour

I lost my Notre Dame class ring in 1987, somewhere on the grounds of the Ireland Army Community Hospital at Fort Knox, Kentucky. As it usually is when you do something like that, it was dumb.

I was wearing my engagement ring on my left hand and my class ring on my right hand. When the physician administering a steroid shot to my left wrist suggested I remove my ring from that hand, I put my ND ring in my pocket and transferred my engagement ring to the ND ring finger. That was the last I saw of my ND class ring.

I could have looked at the bright side — I didn’t lose the diamond — but I was upset about the loss. I just didn’t lose things like that. I searched the hospital hallways and the parking lot and the inside of my Chevy Blazer where I first noticed the ring was missing. I asked nurses and doctors and total strangers if they had seen a ring that I may have dropped. I retraced my steps and scanned the grounds like a human sonar. I went from being angry with myself to being angry with The Someone who must have found my ring and stolen it — probably pawned it. Isn’t that why all those pawn shops are right outside the gates of military posts?

I checked a few pawn shops but realized too late that it wasn’t so brilliant to tell them I thought my ring had been stolen — they don’t take stolen goods, you know. I put an advertisement in the paper (that was back when websites were places where spiders hung out) to no avail.

I was sad. My 1985 University of Notre Dame class ring was important to me. I bought that ring with my own earnings. I worked hard and did without a lot of things just to cover the one-year gap that my Army scholarship didn’t cover. I didn’t have a lot of clothes or shoes or other frills, and Army uniforms were a blessing to the budget and my fashion-impaired mind.

My class ring was my reminder of my life at Notre Dame, that sense of place. It was not just pretty; it reminded me that I was someone. When the Army was chewing me up, I could close my hand and know that I was smart, I was well-trained, I was kind, and I was compassionate — and the Army couldn’t eat me.

I decided to replace my class ring with an identical one ordered on campus. I was a “rich” lieutenant now and could afford to do this. The ring went back on my finger and, although it couldn’t pretend to be the same, it stayed there until the babies made my fingers fat. Now I wear the ring to Notre Dame events and campus visits.

Still, I always wonder: Where is my first ND ring — my “real” ND ring? Is it in the dirt at Fort Knox, waiting for the right millennium to be dug up by archaeologists? Did a little girl innocently pick it up for her jewelry collection and wear it to make tea for her dollies? Did the bad man steal it and sell it for drug money or swap it for a gun? Was it a godsend to someone who needed cash for a cancer treatment or food to put on the table? Maybe my ring was like a penny and it’s been all over the United States, changing hands here and there in the journey. I am sure I will never know.

It’s 2011 and my husband is sad. He lost his 1985 University of Notre Dame Class ring — or maybe it was stolen from his Army-supplied apartment outside of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, when the workers came one day and changed the old mattress for a different old mattress.

We’re out of the Stone Age now, and I turn to the worldwide web and search Ebay and in hopes of seeing my husband’s blue and gold pop up in answer to a search. There are rings, plenty of them. I wonder where they all came from and if people know to look on these sites for their rings. I want to call all the high schools and colleges whose names are inscribed on the rings and ask if they know someone who is missing his or her class ring. Whose “pre-owned, solid gold” ND ring is that on the website? Does the owner know? Does he need the money? Is he sad?

My husband isn’t very emotional and not very expressive when he is feeling emotional. I ask him if he has talked to the Army’s furniture management company about the possible theft and tell him I am checking the Internet and maybe he should check the pawn shops. He replies, “I just feel so bad.” He thinks I don’t know what he means. But I do.

Carrie Chiarella lives in Greenwood, Virginia, near the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Charlottesville. She describes herself as “a stay-at-home (I love the irony of that term!) mom with a master’s in jobs with little or no financial reward.” Email her at