- Associated Press - Saturday, August 15, 2015

BEND, Ore. (AP) - When Gina McNeill found a tarnished 1928 class ring in Cultus Lake while snorkeling late last month, she wondered who the owner was. Thursday, the granddaughter of that owner came forward.

While McNeill was finishing up snorkeling July 31, the ring caught her eye as she approached the shore.

“It had a shine and I looked at it,” McNeill, 56, of Bend, said. She swam over to it and picked it out of the shallow water, only about 2½ to 3½ feet deep. Even though it was brassy in color she could tell it was gold, and it looked like an old class ring.

After cleaning it up at home, first with seltzer water and dishwashing liquid and then a toothbrush and toothpaste to really get the job done, she could make out the details: “Bend HS” for Bend High School, “1928,” ”10k” for 10 karat gold and initials carved clearly inside - “RBC.” McNeill did some research online at home, but then contacted Bend-La Pine Schools to see whether staff there could help in the search. The district shared a picture of the ring on Facebook and Twitter Wednesday morning.

Thursday, McNeill brought the ring to the Des Chutes Historical Museum to enlist the help of staff there as well. Searches by The Bulletin and museum staff through old yearbooks, directories and marriage records at the museum for someone living in Bend during that time with those initials were not fruitful Thursday - and for a tricky reason.

Robert Berwyn Coyner, the original owner, went by his middle name. Old records all showed simply “Berwyn Coyner,” which slipped under the radar.

His granddaughter, Leslie Smith, saw a news report about the ring but didn’t really pay attention. Then her dad became interested.

“He remembered his dad had graduated in that year,” Smith, 57, of Redmond, said. Smith’s dad, Bob Coyner, checked to see whether he had his father’s high school diploma. He did.

Smith then messaged Bend-La Pine Schools via Facebook.

“I’m contacting you about the class ring found at Cultus Lake,” the message from Smith said. She sent it to the school district Thursday afternoon; from start to finish, the ring was connected to the owner’s family in just a day and a half.

“My grandfather was a member of the Bend High School class of 1928. His name is Robert Berwyn Coyner, he was a lifelong fisherman and spent a lot of time fishing Central Oregon lakes. He died in 2003,” the message read.

Now, Smith is looking forward to connecting with McNeill and the museum to see the ring.

McNeill said to have found the owner’s granddaughter is “amazing.” She plans on releasing the ring to the family.

“It was kind of exciting,” Smith said of realizing the ring belonged to her grandfather.

Museum staffers were excited Thursday evening to find out the news, too. Mysteries like this one are always fun for them to try to crack.

Even before the owner was identified, Kelly Cannon-Miller, executive director of the museum and Vanessa Ivey, museum manager, had narrowed down who the owner might have been. They judged from the size of the ring the owner was a man.

They were right.

Coyner, whose obituary ran in The Bulletin in March 2003, lived to be 92. He was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma, on Sept. 3, 1910, to Elmer and Minnie Coyner, according to Bulletin archives. He would go on to marry Rosina Rhody in Bend in 1933 and stay busy in Central Oregon. Coyner owned a Ben Franklin retail store in Redmond and the Redmond Hotel. He was also a banker and helped start what was then the Bank of Central Oregon, serving on its board of directors, according to the obituary. He was a volunteer firefighter and served on the Redmond City Council. He enjoyed woodworking, hunting and as his granddaughter noted: fishing.

“We didn’t have any recollection of him losing a ring,” Smith said, adding that she doesn’t remember seeing her grandfather wear the class ring, which makes her wonder if he lost it long ago.

But she does remember camping with her grandpa and grandma at Cultus Lake in a cabin as a child. They made a pineapple upside-down cake. Smith said Thursday her dad was digging up scrapbooks after they heard about the ring; they’ve been looking to see what else they have of her grandpa’s. McNeill is glad her discovery has come full circle.

“It’s really nice for it to be a complete story,” McNeill said.


Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com

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