Playing detective with a metal detector helps man reunite owner with lost ring, 40 years later

Steven Ambros has had a hobby since he was four — he is a metal detectorist. By his own admission, it’s a quirky hobby.

“You have to be a certain level of weird to want to metal detect,” he said. “Metal detecting’s not for everybody. You have to be the sort of person to not mind people staring at you.”

Sweeping with his metal detector in Verdun’s green spaces, he’s found everything from rare coins to antique firearms. He found something completely unique in an athletic field: a graduation ring from Verdun High School that was engraved with the initials CEW.

“This ring that I found was a silver men’s ring,” he said. “And it was fairly deep so I knew it wasn’t lost recently.”

The crucial clue were the initials inside: CEW. There was only one Verdun High graduate with those initials that graduated that year. Ambros contacted a Facebook page for Verdun High School alumni.

“I got a phone call. I got a phone call from a girl I went to school with,” said Curt Edward Wakeling, who owns an auto shop in LaSalle. “And she said ‘Curt, did you lose your grad ring?’”

Wakeling doesn’t know how he lost the ring, which came off his finger the summer after his senior year.

“It only fits on the pinky now, the other fingers don’t have a chance, but it does fit,” Wakeling, laughed.

For Ambros, metal detectoring is a way of escape, and one he sorely needs. His wife recently gave birth to twins who were born premature by roughly four months.

“They have had bacterial infections, they have had organs shut down, they have had, basically the worst things imaginable for kids to have. And yet they are still fighting,” he said.

The Friday he made his discovery, he was dealing with burnout.

“I can’t do today,” he recalled. “I can’t hear the beep of the machines, I can’t smell the hospital smells, and my wife understood that and said, ‘Why don’t you just clear your head?’”

Wakeling was glad to have the ring back -- not for the monetary value, but for other reasons.

“It’s not about the ring per se, it’s the memories. It took be back 40 years,” he said.

As for Ambros, he was happy to solve a mystery that was almost 40 years old, and get through another tough day.

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