Kenneth Board’s ring was lost in 1970 during a senior year trip to Cocoa Beach. It was found two weeks ago by a metal detectorist on Melbourne Beach — nearly 20 miles away.

WINTER HAVEN — In the spring of 1970, Kenneth Board spent an evening at the Auburndale High School senior prom and then took off in the morning for Florida’s Space Coast, where he and a friend enjoyed a day at Cocoa Beach getting a suntan and playing in the ocean.


A storm blew in quickly in the afternoon and he and his friend scooped up their beach blanket, threw it in the car and headed for home. When Board got to his mom’s house on the shore of Lake Martha in Winter Haven, he shook out the blanket they had been lying on and realized that his class ring from Auburndale High School was missing.


“It felt weird because I didn’t have it and just knew it was gone,” Board said Tuesday, nearly 50 years later. “I knew there was no way you’d find it at the time because we had gotten home before I realized that it was lost when we looked in the blanket.”


Two weeks ago, Jerry Pope was sweeping a metal detector across the sand on Melbourne Beach, nearly 20 miles from Cocoa Beach.


Pope’s detector squawked and he dug out of the sand a gold class ring. He spent a few days cleaning off some green growth and discovered the initials “H or R and B is the definite last initial,” a post on Auburndale High School’s Facebook page read last Sunday.


Jake White, AHS testing coordinator, said he took the initials and the graduating year and started doing some digging himself.


“I was able to use what information (they) had from the ring’s inscription to go through a 1970 yearbook and the AHS alumni directory to find what appeared to be the match, a gentleman living in Winter Haven,” White said last week. “Sometimes the Internet is an amazing place.”


White passed along Board’s number to a woman who was helping Pope find the ring’s owner. She called the Boards last Monday.


“When I played the message, he was standing there and the look on his face was utter shock,” said Terry Board, Kenneth’s wife. “He said, ‘What did that just say?’ And I said, ‘Hold on, I’ll play it again for you,’ and he kind of teared up and he’s like, ‘You’re kidding me!’ And then we called her and he got to talk with them.”


Board, who worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 42 years until he retired in 2013, said he still can’t quite believe it.


“It was just, you can’t fathom after 50 years that a ring that was (in) the ocean would be located, that it wouldn’t be washed out or washed somewhere way away,” he said. “It was just disbelief. It took me several hours to really connect with it.”


The Boards and Pope are trying to coordinate their schedules to meet up in the next few weeks so Pope can give back what was lost so long ago.


“I want to say thank you,” Board said. “I’ll give him a hug because it’s something special that you have.”


Board said he isn’t sure if he will wear it, partly because he admits he isn’t good with rings. In 1971, he bought a replacement class ring, but lost that one, too, when he took it off to play softball and left it in his car, never to be found. Shortly after he was married, he also lost his wedding ring in the sandy shore of Lake Martha, but his wife found that one.


“I’ll have to look at it and see what type of shape it’s in and see if it fits my fingers and whether I wear it some or just put it in a safe place,” Board said.


Kimberly C. Moore can be reached at kmoore@theledger.com or 863-802-7514. Follow her on Twitter at @KMooreTheLedger.