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The Tale of Two Aggie Rings

James "Jim" Brewer '80 November 11, 2014 10:11 AM updated: June 7, 2017 10:38 AM

James Brewer lost his first Aggie Ring in 1981; it was never recovered. He bought a replacement Aggie Ring, lost it in the ocean in 1983 and bought another replacement. Pictured on his ring finger is that third Aggie Ring, which he has worn since 1983. On his pinky is his second ring, which was recently returned to him after 31 years. Photos courtesy of his son, Nic Brewer.
James Brewer lost his first Aggie Ring in 1981; it was never recovered. He bought a replacement Aggie Ring, lost it in the ocean in 1983 and bought another replacement. Pictured on his ring finger is that third Aggie Ring, which he has worn since 1983. On his pinky is his second ring, which was recently returned to him after 31 years. Photos courtesy of his son, Nic Brewer.
I am a member of the Fighting Texas Aggies Class of 1980 and was in Company N-1 Neanderthals of the Corps of Cadets.  When I became a senior, I promptly ordered my Aggie Ring and placed it on my left ring finger so it would be close to my heart.  I was so proud of this ring.  Shortly after I had a small diamond placed in the crest.  Like most Aggies, this was my pride and joy and I enjoyed wearing it every day.

After graduation in 1981, I was employed by a geotechnical and materials testing firm in San Antonio, TX, and was quickly relocated to Corpus Christi, TX.  There I performed field inspections of concrete pours and concrete batch plant operations, which required me to sample the concrete.  One evening when I got home after a busy day of inspections I realized my Aggie Ring was missing.  I searched high and low, but could not find it.  I figured it must have slipped off during one of my concrete sampling events and my ring was now in a concrete pier at the Ingleside Naval Base.  Gone for ever.  So I promptly contacted the Aggie Ring Office to order a new Class of 1980 ring.  Lucky for me the price of gold was still the same.

In 1982 I was transferred to Lake Jackson, TX, to manage a branch office.  I was still dating a girl long distance that I had met in San Antonio. After a year, it was time for us to get married, and we did on July 2, 1983.  I told my fiancée, soon to be wife, that we needed to get plain gold wedding bands because mine had to fit next to my Aggie Ring on my left hand.  Only one thing was closer to my heart than my Aggie Ring, and that was my wedding band.  After the wedding, we took a week honeymoon to the north shore of Jamaica and stayed at the Trelawny Beach Club.  One day we took out a little sunfish sail boat.  I had made several tacks venturing further out from shore each time.  On one turn as the boom was swinging about, the rope rapped around my left hand and caught on my Aggie Ring, and it slipped off.  In slow motion, my wife and I watched as my ring went bouncing off the stern of the boat and went bloop into the ocean water.  Being a Civil Engineer, I immediately looked to shore to try and line up markers to identify where we were located.  But we were about 300 yards off-shore and there were no buildings or antennas to align with, just beautiful sandy beaches and palm trees.  Then I thought I would dive overboard and try to see if I could see it.  But then I realized how far off shore we were and the water was deep and the bottom covered by coral beds.  My ring was gone for ever, again.  Upon my return to Texas, I promptly ordered my 3rd Aggie Ring.

Flash forward 31 years.  On October 10, 2014, I receive an email from Todd Turner ’92 a senior associate in the Aggie Ring Program.  The email was titled “Found Aggie Ring.”  He wanted to confirm with me if I had lost an Aggie Ring because one had been reported found that looked like it had my name inscribed inside.  I replied to Todd that in fact I had lost 2 Aggie Rings, and told him one was in the Corpus Christi area and had a diamond in the crest, and the second was lost sailing in Jamaica.  I told him, “I don’t think that would be the ring found unless a scuba diver found it.” 

Todd replied, “I believe it is your second ring that was found and yes, it was found by scuba diver.”  I gave Todd my home address and cell number and asked that the gentleman that reported to have found it get in touch with me, which Todd did promptly. 

On Monday, October 13, 2014, I received a phone call from a gentleman, Frank Tompkins, who introduced himself as having found my Aggie Ring.  His first words were of apology in taking so long to reach out to find me and return the ring.  After he had found the ring, he had placed it in his dive bag in a small pocket, and remained there unnoticed since he originally found it. He rediscovered it when he was cleaning out his garage and downsized his diving gear, and found it in the dive bag. 

I told him I was in disbelief that he even found my ring considering how and where I had lost it.  I asked him to relay his side of the story in finding the ring.  He told me that according to his dive log, he found it on August 12, 1983, at 50 feet of water while diving off the coast of Jamacia.  He said he remembered seeing it shining on the surface of the sand right after he reached the bottom.  At the end of the dive, he rinsed it off and put it in his dive bag.  I was still in shock.  What are the odds of someone finding a ring in the middle of the ocean, only one month after I had lost it?

Frank is from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and has never been to Aggieland.  He relayed to me that right after his Jamaican diving trip, he went to the Cayman Islands for a week of live-aboard dive boat, then went on another dive trip to Hawaii, then put up his dive gear.

When he rediscovered it and began trying to track me down, he initially had some difficulty in reading the first name of my inscription, so he passed it around to several retired colleagues with whom he regularly met with for lunch.  One of them, Dr. Dan Sheffer, a former TAMU grad student, alerted him to the  lost Aggie Ring website [https://www.aggienetwork.com/ring/lostandfound.aspx] and emphasized the significance that TAMU students place in their rings.  That is how he got in touch with Todd Turner.  Todd confirmed my name from some photos of my ring that Frank had sent him.

On October 16, 2014, I received a package with my ring.  As I opened the box, with my wife standing next to me, I told her as I held it up, that I had not worn that ring since our honeymoon, 31 years prior.  I took off my ring and replaced it with the newly returned ring and it brought tears to both of us as we hugged.  The ring was in pristine condition and still had all its dimples. 

I wrote back to Frank that I could not thank him enough for his efforts to find me and return the ring, let alone the odds of him even finding the ring in the vast ocean where I lost it.  He was still apologetic over the long time it had taken him to return the ring.  He was interested in knowing my side of the story so I then informed him of how and when I lost it.  Lucky for both of us that it was such a short time in the ocean and had not been buried in the sediments by any storms.  I then told Frank his timing was beyond belief.  It didn’t matter it had been 31 years, but that his gift was the best birthday present I could have received, as my birthday is October 17.  I also informed him that I’m currently undergoing chemo treatments for Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer and news about my ring being found was so uplifting. 

I told Frank that yes, we Aggies do take lots of pride in our rings as that is how we recognize total strangers and introduce ourselves to each other.  I told him all Aggie Rings are identical except the class year on the crest.  I told him I have met many a stranger on plane flights and social gatherings because of the Aggie Ring. 
 
The coincidences don’t just stop with the finding of the ring.  Frank replied that in the last few years he lost a brother-in-law and a neighbor to pancreatic cancer.  He understood the significance of the uplifting news.  He replied, “It’s distressing to learn of what you and your family are going through right now.  I hope the return of your Ring will boost your spirits and strengthen you in the battle you’re now fighting.”  Frank, you will never know how much a boost in my spirits you have given me over such a simple act as returning my lost ring.

Thank you.

Photo caption: James Brewer lost his first Aggie Ring in 1981; it was never recovered. He bought a replacement Aggie Ring, lost it in the ocean in 1983 and bought another replacement. Pictured on his ring finger is that third Aggie Ring, which he has worn since 1983. On his pinky is his second ring, which was recently returned to him after 31 years. Photos courtesy of his son, Nic Brewer.


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