Lake Vermilion gives up long lost class ring after 38 years

Published 3:30 pm Monday, September 7, 2015

VIRGINIA — After 38 years, a Minnesota lake has given up an Iron Range man’s long-lost class ring.

Jon Perpich was boating with his wife on Lake Vermilion last month, a week or so before their 38th anniversary, when he trolled into Bass Bay, where his 1974 Virginia High School ring flew off his finger in 1977.

“You’re never going to see that again,” Marilyn Perpich told him.

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But Aug. 21, one day after their anniversary, the ring was back on Jon Perpich’s finger.

Brody Skala found it, the Mesabi Daily News reported Sunday. The 18-year-old University of Minnesota Duluth student from Tower doesn’t remember exactly when, but recounted the surprise of finding it.

“I was picking clams,” he said. “I stuck my hand in the sand and the ring slid right onto my finger.”

It was in pretty good shape, with a blue stone, the words “Roosevelt Virginia HS,” the initials “JP,” the year “1974,” and the VHS Blue Devils mascot.

Skala went to a library to look at the school’s 1974 yearbook. There were only two male graduates with the initials “JP.” His grandparents have been customers of Perpich’s TV and appliance store in Mountain Iron, so he decided to begin with Perpich.

Skala needed to ask only a few questions before Perpich realized where his inquiries were leading: “Did you graduate in 1974 from Virginia High School? Have you ever been to Bass Bay?”

Perpich said he lost the ring while he and his soon-to-be-wife were enjoying a summer day with another couple.

“We were playing water football” offshore, he recalled, adding that the “football” was a can of beer. He was tossing the can when his ring simply flew off. The can went about 5 feet; the ring flew about 50. They searched for a couple hours to no avail. He would return to the bay each summer to search before giving up about 30 years ago.

Perpich thinks the 14-karat gold ring cost $129. “That was a lot of money back then,” he said.

While some of the corrosion is wearing off, Perpich said he wants to keep it a bit tarnished — just for a while longer. To him, it’s a reminder that there are still good people out there.

Perpich called Skala “a person of character” and said he’s now guaranteed a discount at his store — anytime.

“That’s an affirmative,” he said. “He’s a lifelong friend.”