(Feb. 20, 2015) It had been 22 years since Scott Urlocker had last seen his class of 1990 ring from Escambia High School in Pensacola, Fla. and he could not believe it was found on Ocean City’s beach after vanishing from his central Massachusetts military locker in 1992.
He will probably never know how his class ring disappeared while he was in the Navy and ended up on a beach thousands of miles away in the state he currently resides.
In fact, he was hesitant when first hearing from his father the ring was recovered. Urlocker decided to take a cautious approach by researching Mark Paddack, an Ocean City police officer and avid metal detectorist, before giving him a call.
In addition, his dad can be quite the jokester. The first information disclosed was how the Ocean City Police Department wanted to talk to him and Urlocker let his son in on the secret only after messing with him a bit.
“I couldn’t believe my ring was found. I had written it off long ago,” Urlocker said. “Never in a million years did I think it would come back and be found in the state I live in now, when I lost it in Massachusetts. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Approximately 10 years ago, Pat Panuska, an avid walker on the beach found a class ring laying on the surface. She held onto the ring and wondered how she could locate the owner.
The identity would be a mystery for years.
About two years ago, she mentioned the ring she uncovered years prior in a conversation with Darlene Stevens. Stevens and her husband, Paul, enjoy metal detecting on the beach and are members of a local club called Shore Seekers Artifact and Recovery Club, located in Salisbury.
Stevens agreed to help locate the owner of the ring and took it home with her. The Stevens’ scoured the Internet and made phone calls to the Pentagon. Eventually they exhausted all leads and the ring sat for another year.
During the summer of 2014, the Stevens met Paddack for the first time on the beach. He gave them his email address and they promised to keep in contact.
A couple of months passed when Paddack received an email asking for help locating Urlocker.
Paddack used the Internet to locate Urlocker’s father first, while confirming the owner of the ring lived in Maryland.
Urlocker called Paddack and realized it was true—his ring was found. He contacted the Stevens to thank them and set up a place for the ring return.
“It’s a very rare feat to find a ring, track down the owner and make the return, almost as rare as hitting the lottery,” Paddack said.
On Jan. 6, Urlocker, his wife and Darlene and Paul Stevens met at a diner in Annapolis. After 22 years, the missing high school ring was finally returned to its rightful owner.
“I can’t thank them enough [for taking] the time to hunt me down. It renews your faith in humanity,” Urlocker said. “It lets you know there are still good people in the world.”
Urlocker said more feel good stories like these need to be told and thanks to Paddack, the Ocean City community has a place to read them. Paddack writes ring return stories in his “Life in the Lane” column on the website TheTreasureDepot.com and in the Surf & Sand forum under the heading of “The Depot Honor Roll.”
“I refer to all of the surf and sand detectorists who visit or want to visit Ocean City’s beach as the ‘Northern Territory Gold Crew,’” Paddack said.
Paddack has been using a metal detector since he was a teenager and came back to his hobby a little over three years ago. For the most part, he is in the surf and off the coast of Ocean City sweeping the land for lost treasures.
He started the Northern Territory Gold Crew last year and sells custom made T-shirts depicting his logo and metal detecting.
“I have been fortunate to facilitate several ring returns in the past couple years and assisted other Good Samaritan ring finders in making the proper connection,” Paddack said.
He prides himself on being a resource to others who may not possess the computer skills or network of personal resources to locate owners.
In 2014, he found or helped others return seven items.
“Very few activities in life bring as much enjoyment and personal group satisfaction as locating, researching and returning an item of significant sentimental value to the owner,” Paddack said.
Ironically, his first return of 2015 is a class ring and it will take place on Feb. 22 in Cambridge. The class ring was lost four years ago on Assateague State Park and was found a year ago.
A couple emails and help from a friend’s daughter in Baltimore helped Paddack locate the owner.
This year is starting out to be busy for ring returns as Paddack is in the process of locating three more owners.
“All parties involved have an adventure and fond memories that will forever last,” Paddack said.
Scott Urlocker and Darlene Stevens pose with his class ring
that was returned after 22 years in Annapolis on Jan. 6. It was
last seen in Massachusetts and found on the beach in Ocean City
over a decade ago by Pat Panuska.