"We never thought we'd see it again," said Laure Achhammer Wallace, and who could have doubted her?
When you spend time hunting for a ring where your boyfriend said he lost it and you come up empty, you have to figure that the ring was stolen, pawned, melted down, sold for food, given away or something equally permanent. You hardly figure that some fat-fingered typist will arrange to return it to you 29 years later.
But that's exactly what has happened to Laure's Class of 1969 ring from Northwood High School. You'll never see a bigger long shot, but with the help of several Northwood '69ers and The Reunion Company, that long shot has just come in.
The ring was found on a street in Hyattsville in 1970 by the same reader who eventually contacted me. She threw it in a drawer and promptly forgot about it. The ring sat there for 29 long years.
This fall, the woman was moving. She was sorting through her stuff when she found the ring. It bore engraved initials that looked like L.C.A.
The woman would have called Northwood to search for the owner, but the school has been out of business for several years. Instead, she called that fellow who can climb every mountain, ford every stream, follow every rainbow till you find your dream.
Levey immediately published an item about the ring. Northwood '69ers leapt for their yearbooks.
Only one member of that class had an "L" first name and an "A" last name. She was Laure Achhammer. But after 30 years, trails grow cold -- especially if women marry and take a husband's surname, as Laure very well might have, for all anyone knew.
By the sheerest chance, Northwood '69 was holding its 30th reunion just a few days after that "ring column" appeared. The Reunion Company, a Rockville outfit, had been hired to organize and run the event. Betsy Flaherty, The Reunion Company's chief executive, arranged to have the ring displayed there.
Meanwhile, word of the find reached Laure. She couldn't make the reunion, but she called me a couple of days later. I told her that Betsy Flaherty was arranging to mail the ring to her. She was delighted, and full of memories.
"I met my husband [Don Wallace] when we were students at the University of Maryland," Laure said. "We met when we were sophomores. We exchanged rings, the way young people do when they're in love.
"But he lost mine. He majored in speech and drama, and he lost it behind the set of whatever play he was in, at Tawes Theater."
The couple hunted high and low for it, without success. "I never thought about it again," Laure said.
Meanwhile, the couple married, and recently celebrated their 25th anniversary. They live in Bluemont, Va., where Don is a cabinetmaker. Laure commutes to Reston, where she's a human resources officer for the U.S. Geological Survey. They have two children -- Jesse, 20, a college student in Arizona, and Corey, 17, a high school student.
How the ring got from Tawes Theater to a sidewalk in Hyattsville is a major mystery. Laure couldn't begin to guess at an explanation. However, she was very certain when I asked what she'd do with the ring now that she has a second chance at owning it.
"I suspect it will go in a place of honor on the dresser," she said.
Our annual grocery receipt drive is off and running (or at least off and jogging). Shaw Junior High School in Northwest Washington is this year's "lucky duck" school. All receipts that you submit to me go there. The school plans to use receipts to equip a computer lab.
As always, Giant Food and Safeway are participating. If you collect Giant receipts, please mail them to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071. If you shop at Safeway and want to support our drive, life is more complicated.
You first need to obtain a Safeway "frequent shopper" card. You can get one at any Safeway store. Then, you need to register Shaw as the school to which you'd like to direct your receipts.
Please don't mail Safeway receipts to me, as you have in the past. As soon as Shaw is designated in Safeway's computers as "your" school, the value of what you buy goes to the Shaw account automatically.
The Safeway code number for Shaw is 0222. Please don't try to register under the name of The Washington Post or Bob Levey. You'll get mystified looks. All you need to say is "Shaw" and "0222."
We're hoping to collect $8 million worth of receipts before the program ends in late February. All it takes is support from readers just like you. Many thanks.
Thanks, David Konigstein, of Laurel, for fighting back in clever fashion.
David says he often receives credit card offers in the mail. Typically, they say he has been "pre-approved."
David could simply slam-dunk these annoyances in the trash. Instead, "I open them up, write `Pre-Rejected' [on them] and stuff the whole mailing, including the original outer envelope, in the enclosed postage paid envelope and send it back."