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Lost Aggie Ring makes its way back after three decades

Finnley Willms '27 May 21, 2024 10:50 AM updated: May 22, 2024 9:51 AM

When Tammye Smith’s son found an Aggie Ring in the backyard of his childhood home in Abilene, Texas, last summer, Smith knew they had discovered something special.

Smith’s son, Cooper, 19, who found the Ring originally thought of pawning it for gold. However, Smith felt the Ring must be too important to sell. In an attempt to return it to its rightful owner, they had the Ring professionally cleaned and polished. Smith was able to make out John “Johnny” Deffebach’s name – an Aggie from the Class of 1928.

Deffebach worked for a lumber company in Abilene, where he built and lived in the home that Smith occupied when the Ring was found. After connecting the dots, Smith went to The Association of Former Students to see if she could track down any of Deffebach’s relatives in order to return the Aggie Ring. “John Deffebach earned that Ring and his family deserved to have it returned,” Smith said.

Through The Association, she was able to contact Mark Gunderson, Deffebach’s grandson. Gunderson met with Smith and shared stories of his grandfather’s time at Texas A&M University. Deffebach’s involvement on campus ranged from a Southwest Conference championship while playing football under coach D.X. Bible, to president of “T” Club Dance his senior year. Deffebach was a member of the Corps of Cadets outfit Battery “A” Artillery and the Ross Volunteers. In addition to his time at Texas A&M, Deffebach also served in World War II.

John Deffebach, Class of 1928, wears his Aggie Ring at his Abilene home. The Ring would be lost in that home's yard for over 30 years before being discovered by new owners. / Photo courtesy of Mark Gunderson


Although not a former student herself, Smith says it was still an emotional experience to return the Aggie Ring: “It was important to me because I know that I would want it back if it was my father [or] grandfather.” Though she already knew the importance of the Aggie Ring, it was through her conversations with Gunderson that Smith was able to get an in-depth look at the Aggie who made this Ring so special.

The Aggie Ring was returned to Gunderson in Fort Worth. He has since been able to share the Ring with his mother, Carol, Deffebach’s daughter. Gunderson and his family intend on donating the Aggie Ring to Texas A&M.

Deffebach's found Ring has been polished, cleaned and returned thanks to Tammye Smith. The Ring is now in Fort Worth with Deffebach's daughter and grandsons. / Photo courtesy of Mark Gunderson 

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