PONCA CITY, Okla. — Some modern detective work put an Oklahoma family in touch with a beloved family member who died 55 years ago.
The Ponca City Public School District says they had the honor of returning a 1930 Po-Hi class ring to the owner’s family.
It all began when a man in The Woodlands, Texas found a ring as he was digging a roadside ditch.
He brought the ring home to his wife and told her to try and find the owner.
Stephanie Ruiz called Ponca City Public School District Public Information Coordinator, Mary Ladd, saying her husband had found the 1930 Ponca City Senior High School class ring.
The ring’s design is one that Ladd has never seen before. It has no stone, and instead features a Native American head. At first, Stephanie overlooked any other identifying marks on the ring, but another look revealed the initials, “J.M.”
“I immediately went to the high school and got the 1930 Po-Hi yearbook,” says Ladd. “There was only one person with those initials- Jean Morgan.”
But traditional means of tracking Jean Morgan down lead nowhere.
“I could not find any information on her anywhere, so I turned to our faithful Facebook fans,” says Ladd.
The district’s Facebook page has almost 3,000 followers. Within ten minutes, Ladd said someone sent her a picture of Jean’s gravestone from http://www.FindAGrave.com.
Jean Morgan passed away in 1960 and was buried in Ponca City. But the other information provided on the site didn’t help Ladd find Jean’s family.
“So, I called on our Facebook friends again to help locate any other family members.”
Ladd says the story quickly went ‘viral,’ reaching over 150,000 people. It didn’t take them long to send the information she was looking for Ladd’s way, including contact information for one of Jean’s cousins.
That cousin told her Jean and her husband Robert had had two children, Susan Jean Kygar Fritts of Tulsa, and Linda Jo Kygar Tindell of Broken Arrow.
Ladd’s next call was an emotional one.
“I immediately called (Jean’s daughter) Susan to explain the story,” says Ladd. “She and her sister were very young when their mother died, and they have very few of her personal belongings.”
Susan and her sister were just children when their mother died of cancer.
“She was absolutely thrilled to find out we had her ring.”
The district also discovered that Jean and her husband Robert were both teachers for the Ponca City School District.
Jean taught PE at East Junior High School and Robert taught at the high school.
Emily Fritts is Jean’s granddaughter. She became a teacher to carry on her grandmother’s legacy.
She says being reunited with the ring was the highlight of her day.
“Teaching my fourth graders and sharing this news with them, well … it was truly a joyful morning!” said Fritts. “I have not felt this connected to my grandmother, whom I never met, in a long time!”
Jean’s oldest daughter Susan says the only connection they can come up with is that Jean’s dad worked for Conoco and frequently went to the Houston plant.
“Even though we may never know how the ring made it to Texas, we do know it has found its way home- with the help of lots of Facebook friends.”
Here’s the family’s message to Ponca City’s Facebook fans who helped in the search: