- Associated Press - Friday, September 23, 2016

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - In a story Sept. 21 about a man who found a long missing fraternity lighter, The Associated Press reported erroneously that the story’s author was Evan Cobb. The author was Jessica Rendall. Evan Cobb was the photographer.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Long missing fraternity lighter returned to Missouri grad

A long missing fraternity lighter has found its way back to a University of Missouri graduate after 64 years

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Columbia Missourian.


Columbia Missourian

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The silver cigarette lighter from 1952 was smothered in bubble wrap and tucked in a small box postmarked Gilford, New Hampshire, when it arrived at Mike Lawler’s door this month.

The lighter was in mint condition, displaying the Sigma Alpha Epsilon coat of arms. The name “Mike Lawler” and “U. of Missouri ‘54” are engraved on the other side, the Columbia Missourian (https://bit.ly/2cLQjUx ) reports.

After losing it 64 years ago, Lawler has his lighter back.

In the quirkiest of coincidences, the lighter Lawler lost as a student at MU in 1952 found its way back to him after Rick Ribeiro discovered it while cleaning out a cigar box he inherited from his father.

Ribeiro, 80, decided to contact the Mizzou Alumni Association, which tracked down Lawler and forwarded Ribeiro’s message: the lighter had been found.

“We were gonna put it out in a yard sale,” Ribeiro said. “I saw his name on it, so I said, ‘Let me see if this gentleman is still alive.’”

Eighty-three years old and very much alive, Lawler was perplexed about how the lighter ended up out east.

Born in Chicago and raised in Kansas City, Lawler spent much of his adult life in California as an insurance executive. After raising four children and retiring, he returned to MU for homecoming, and his love for his old college town got the best of him.

“I saw all these little kids with the MU shirts on, and they started playing that Missouri fight song,” Lawler said. It was an experience that sent him packing, and in 1998 Lawler moved back to Columbia.

The lighter, as it turns out, was a part of the campus tradition that drew Lawler back. Smoking was commonplace when he attended MU, and his fraternity lighter was used mostly for his duties as a pledge member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon: If a brother needed a light, Lawler would come running, lighter in hand.

Lawler doesn’t have much need for the lighter these days.

“I quit smoking 55 years ago,” Lawler said. “But I’ll put it in a memory box.”

To express gratitude for the return of his memento, Lawler sent Ribeiro a thank-you note. He also enclosed money to reimburse Ribeiro for what he spent on postage: two $2 bills to “send him something special.”

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