LIBERTY, Mo. — A Liberty man solved a mystery 45 years after it began, and returned a cherished memento to an owner who never thought he’d see it again.

Mike DeVries and a friend were using metal detectors in a Kansas City-area park earlier this month. He found a class ring buried in the dirt. The 1966 class ring came from Austin Peay State College, now Austin Peay State University, in Clarksville, Tennessee.

DeVries told the university the find piqued his interest and he decided he had to find the ring’s owner.

He turned to social media and a group of people he thought would provide some guidance.

“I have a Facebook group of metal detecting enthusiasts and I posted it on there,” DeVries told Austin Peay University.

DeVries told the university that a member of the Facebook group accessed a yearbook database through The member used the yearbook, the inscribed initials on the ring, and the year of graduation to narrow down who could have lost the ring.

From there, she sent a name to DeVries, believing the ring likely belonged to a man named Don Mathis, who graduated from Austin Peay in 1966.

DeVries Googled the name and learned a man named Don Mathis had a ministry website. The site included an email address and Facebook link.

DeVries sent a message asking Mathis if he lost a class ring.

“I didn’t want to surrender any information, so I simply emailed him back with two one-word questions: ‘school?’ and ‘year?’ He emailed me back and said Austin Peay State College, 1966, initials DRM. I knew immediately, and a cold chill ran up and down my back,” Don Mathis told Austin Peay University.

Don Mathis shows off his 1966 class ring that he lost in 1977. A Liberty man recently found the ring in a Kansas City-area park and returned it to Mathis. (Photo provided by: Austin Peay State University)

Photos of the ring confirmed it belonged to Mathis.

Of course, everyone wanted to know how Mathis lost the ring in the first place.

Mathis told Austin Peay University he thought he lost the ring in Kentucky when he was trying to learn how to water ski.

It turns out he actually lost the ring during a trip to Kansas City to attend a Southern Baptist Convention event in 1977.

“I usually wore my Austin Peay ring, which tells you something because by then I’d finished a master’s and doctorate at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Mathis told Austin Peay University. “I was probably walking to the convention center with the Austin Peay ring on my finger and the seminary ring in my pocket, and I guess I thought if I’m going to a Southern Baptist Convention I ought to put my seminary ring on. Apparently, I missed my pocket, and that’s how it wound up in Kansas City.”

DeVries mailed the ring to Mathis in Bowling Green, Kentucky, who received it last week.