WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) - The year was 1975. Rhonda Hagan had just graduated from high school and was visiting her brother at Camp Lejeune when her class ring slipped off her finger into the ocean.
"It went off my finger into the water and we were all looking for about an hour, couldn't find it," said Rhonda (Hagan) Novak. "I was crushed."
The visiting Connecticut teen didn't even have it for six months.
"It was horrible," she said. "I thought it was gone forever never to come back."
Little did she know, the tiny piece of gold buried itself in the sand and was later uncovered by a local man's metal detector.
"Daddy was...he worked really hard, and his refuge to get away from all that was to put on his headphones grab his metal detector and come to the beach," said Jimmy Bowden's daughter, Susan Hale.
Her father (Bowden) spent his spare time combing through the sand. He passed away in 1990, and the class ring was discovered among his treasures.
"We probably could have melted it down for the money, but that's not what Daddy would have done," said Hale.
Doing what she knew her dad would have wanted, Susan and her husband started searching for the ring's owner.
"We didn't have much to go on," said Susan's husband, Tommy Hale. "Fitch High School Senior, Class of '75 and three initials on the back." Five years of Google searches and phone calls later, they found Rhonda living in Delaware and mailed her the ring.
"I was ecstatic," said Novak. And she's not the only one. Hale says if her father were alive, he would be, too.
"He would have the biggest smile on his face," said Hale. "He just loved returning things."
She says she is happy to finally finish what he started and help a beloved treasure find its way home, 38 years later.
"I did something he would have done if he could have," said Hale.
Novak says she is so grateful for the Hales, and she cannot believe they took the time to find her and make sure she got her class ring back.