Four decades ago in 1974, Graham resident Chester Martin lost one of his most prized possessions at his home in Spearman.
Martin had graduated from Texas Tech eight years prior in 1966 (back then it was known as Texas Technological College). It was that year that Martin acquired his class ring, and for the next several years, everyone close to him, including his wife, Diane, also a Texas Tech graduate, was acutely aware of what that ring meant to him.
Martin and his wife met in 1969, eventually got married and moved to Shallowater, where she taught school.
Chester worked at the Texas A&M Research Center in Lubbock, and later got a job as a claim's representative at the Texas Farm Bureau. His job transferred the couple and their 2-year-old daughter, Jennifer, to Spearman in 1973. They moved into a house on 12th Street and had their second daughter, Betsy, in 1974.
Life continued as usual for the Martins, until one day, when Chester had to repair a broken water line in his back yard. He wore his graduation ring, like always.
“I dug out a water line in the backyard, and there was loose dirt where I had dug that out. My hands were muddy and when I washed them off (with the water hose in the yard), I slung my hands like this to shake the water off,” Chester said, flinging his hands from side to side. “So I slung it, and (the ring) just flew off.”
The ring itself was heavy, made of solid gold and boasting a large ruby with “TT” printed on it. The name “Chester Doene Martin” was etched in cursive inside the ring. Chester called Diane and Jennifer outside to help him hunt for the ring.
“We looked all around the dirt, we even looked in the neighbor's yard,” Diane said.
They searched their yard for weeks, then months. Months became years. Eventually, searching for the ring became more of a ritual, an action taken without an expected result; something out of habit.
“We looked everywhere, I mean everywhere,” Chester said. “Every time we were outside, we would look. We thought, ‘It has to be around here somewhere.'”
The Martins moved to Graham in 1977, leaving behind friends in Spearman. Chester transferred to the Farm Bureau in Graham, and the family occasionally returned to visit Spearman, each time passing by their old house and wondering if Chester's ring had ever turned up in the yard.
“I thought maybe someone found it and pawned it, (or maybe) it was still in the dirt there,” Chester said. “Every now and again, I would wonder if people found it.”
Little did the Martins know that someone did. Meagan and Landon Miller and their four children are the current residents of the Martins' old house on 12th Street.
Their 9-year-old daughter, Maddilyn, was in the back yard around Dec. 27 watering the dogs when something in the dirt caught her eye.
“I guess it was the top of the ring,” said Meagan Miller. “(She) dug it out and noticed it was a Texas Tech ring. She called me at work so I told her to put it up, and when I got home I had to wash it off. I figured there would be a name engraved, and there was.”
Miller posted a picture of the ring on Facebook, asking if anyone knew a Chester Doene Martin, but nobody did.
Miller decided to call her friend, Julie Martin of Sherman, to see if maybe she had an idea who the ring belonged to. Julie isn't related to Chester, but, as a favor, looked up his name online. Within 30 minutes she found a telephone number and gave it to Miller.
On Monday, Dec. 30, Diane and Chester sat in their living room, ready to watch the Texas Tech game. A few days prior, Chester had commented, yet again, to his wife about how much he missed that old ring of his. He told her he was sure he would never see it again.
As the couple got ready to watch their favorite team play in the Holiday Bowl, the phone rang. Diane answered.
Read the complete story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.