CAPAC — Dave Pickelhaupt, an Imlay City firefighter and adjutant at the Imlay City American Legion Post, spent the better part of the summer renovating a historic home on West Mill Street in the village of Capac.
He knew the house had started construction in 1911 by Martin Stoffer and finished a year later by the master mason and blacksmith. So, when he invited Capac resident Wendy Van Sice to try out her metal detector in his yard, he fully expected her to find some old nails and maybe a horseshoe or two.
“I find a lot of change,” said Van Sice, who got her first metal detector in 1997. She uses her metal detector mostly as something to do when she goes camping.
When she began sweeping the Pickelhaupt’s front yard with their son, Noah, it didn’t take long to find something. Digging in the yard, Noah said, “I saw right away it was gold and probably a ring.”
Van Sice said as soon as she rubbed off the dirt she found it was a ring — a 1944 Vassar High School graduation ring with the initials “JPH” on it.
The Pickelhaupts could have just sold the ring the value of the gold, but they decided it was important to someone and they should try to find out who that was and return it to them. Pickelhaupt’s wife, Jennifer, put a vague description of the ring and where it was found on a local swap site.
A few days later Kathryn Miles, a judge’s assistant in Port Huron, was in her office when a co-worker showed her the posting. She knew immediately what the posting was describing. It was her father’s high school class ring that her brother lost in 1971.
Miles was a Honsinger when she moved into the house on West Mill Street in 1963. Her father, James Philip Honsinger, had just been hired as the band director at Capac High School.
She recalled her brother, Philip James, was 14 when he decided he wanted a class ring like the upper classmen. “He wanted to show off,” Miles said.
Her father didn’t think much of the idea, but eventually relented. Still, recalled Miles, when he gave her brother her father’s ring she warned, “You’ll lose it in three days.” He did.
Miles said her brother and his buddy, Mitchell Swartzkaupt, who still lives in town, were playing in the font yard. She said her brother yelled up to Swartzkaupt, who was on the front porch roof, “Toss me my ring” and Swartzkaupt responded, “I already did.”
They spent hours search through the grass with no luck and the ring spent the next 46 years waiting.
The Honsinger kids grew up and moved way. Philip James eventually moved to North Carolina and had a son and grandson.
Their parents passed away. Miles noted the ring was found on what would have been their father’s 91st birthday.
Saturday Miles and her sisters, Joan Fawcett who now lives in Indiana and, Shelia Butler who lives in Hillsdale, came over to the Pickelhaupt’s house to collect their father’s ring.
Miles said they’re going to clean up the ring and send it to her brother in Castle Heights, N.C. She said he plans to eventually give it to his son, James Philip, who’s expected to pass it on to his first born.