April 28, 2014
By GLENN E. RICE, The Kansas City Star
Mike Richards had given up hope decades ago that he would ever find the Arkansas high school state football championship ring he lost on a church choir trip that traveled through Dodge City, Kansas.
Richards, now a 52-year-old sheriff’s lieutenant, earned the ring in 1977 when he was backup linebacker and special teams player for the Benton High School football team. He lost it three years later during an overnight stay at a motel on the way to Colorado Springs.
“Find it after 34 years? Lord no,” Richards said Saturday. “I hadn’t thought about it. You don’t expect to see something like that again.”
Well, it turned out somebody had been holding on to ring all those years.
Teresa Runyan of Bonner Springs found the ring in a box of unclaimed items from the Silver Spur motel, where her father had been the head of maintenance. Runyan’s father died about eight years ago. His family has been trying to find the ring’s owner for the past five years.
On Saturday, Richards and wife drove up about seven hours from Benton, Ark., to meet the Runyans, retrieve the lost treasure and treat them to a steak dinner.
“I’m so glad we found the owner and he’s so happy,” Runyan said. “I guess it (the ring) really meant a lot to him.”
Richards realized the ring was missing the morning after he and other choir members swam at the Silver Spur in Dodge City 34 years ago.
He and his roommates frantically combed through their motel room but couldn’t find the ring. As the bus pulled away from the motel, Richards continued to look through his personal items, and he asked others to look through theirs.
The bus driver pulled over about 20 miles outside Dodge City so everyone could search their suitcases. No luck. Another search at the next motel was fruitless, too.
“It probably got knocked off somewhere and somebody picked it up and put it in the lost and found,” Richards said.
Richards said he eventually gave up hope.
After graduation, Richards attended Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark., on a football scholarship. He now works for the Saline County Sheriff’s Office just southwest of Little Rock.
Every now and then, Richards still thought about the missing ring. Twenty years ago, he asked the company that made the ring if they could make him a copy. But the company had long since gotten rid of the mold and casing.
After Runyan’s father died, family members went through his personal belongings in Dodge City, where they found the ring and other unclaimed items from the motel.
Then last fall, Richards and some friends were at a high school football game when one of them noticed a post about the missing ring on the Benton High School website bulletin board.
“My friend said, ‘I think I just found it,’ ” Richards recalled. “I said bull….”
Richards had been on the website, but hadn’t paid attention to the bulletin board, he said.
Richards soon contacted Runyan, whose grandson had posted the bulletin five years earlier. Richards wanted to drive to Bonner Springs, but the harsh winter forced him to wait until this weekend.
Because the ring now fits only Richards’ pinkie finger, he plans to lock it away for safekeeping.
“It might not mean something to somebody else, but the ring means a lot to me,” Richards said.