- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

LANDER, Wyo. (AP) - Betty McAleenan held her high school class ring last week for the first time in 71 years. It was returned to her in a small ceremony held at the American Legion Hall in Lander.

Betty, “94 and a half” years old, last saw the ring when she gave it to her first husband, Army Staff Sgt. Robert “Bob” Greibel, before he deployed to the South Pacific in 1943.

After 39 successful missions, Greibel - a ball turret gunner on a B-17 aircraft nicknamed the Naughty but Nice - perished with eight of his fellow crewmembers when the aircraft was shot down. One airman parachuted from the craft and survived.

Betty’s ring also survived, but it took more than seven decades to get back to her.

Betty Hoopengarner graduated from Fremont County Vocational High School in Lander in 1936.

Raised on the Big Wind River near Diversion Dam, Betty and neighboring students headed to Lander every Sunday evening to board during the week at town homes so they could attend school.

“We were country through and through,” she said.

She met Greibel several years after graduation at the Morton Grange Hall, a social gathering place for farmers.

“We didn’t have any money. We were farmers together,” Betty said. “We laughed about it: I milked cows and Bob grew potatoes. How could we be anything but healthy?”

The pair married in August 1942. Looking for life beyond the farm, Bob enlisted in the U.S. Army.

Parting was difficult when Bob left, Betty said, “but during World War II everybody sacrificed.”

Bob took Betty’s class ring with him as he was sent from basic training in Arizona to the South Pacific.

“He gave me a wedding ring, so I gave him my class ring,” Betty said.

She believes he wore the ring on his dog tags, noting it was too small to wear on his hand. Having the ring was a way they could be together, Bob told Betty.

“I wanted to go with him in the worst way,” she said.

Story Continues →