Texas woman’s search for class ring’s owner spans decades

By Mike Taylor • Last Updated 9:40 am on Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One ring to find him: Jean Chaney, now living in Harlingen, Texas, hopes a class ring will lead her to a boy she knew during summer camp in 1974. She only knew him as “Scott.”

The initials on the inside band of the class ring are S.L.B. They stand for Scott … somebody.

Jean Chaney can’t remember. The years between then (1974) and now have been long and eventful, and things which might have been remembered have somehow been forgotten.

But even after four decades, Jean remembers Scott.

“I met him at this campground, Snow Lake Kampground in Ionia, I think it was called,” Jean recalls. “I remember we drove to his house to pick up his sister, but I don’t remember what town it was in or which school he went to.”

Jean was 16, Scott a year older, a “bad boy” who had been in minor trouble with the law here and there. From a poor, rural family — one that seemed poor and rural to Livonia-bred Jean, at least — Scott still managed to catch Jean’s interest. Their summer camp romance was the stuff from which countless ‘80s movies were later made.

Like all summer romances, theirs ended when camp did. Jean returned to Livonia, Scott to his rural home, somewhere in Montcalm County. Letters were exchanged, dwindling in frequency as the months passed.

Promises were made to get together again, to keep the letters coming, to never forget.

Jean Chaney, originally from Livonia, is trying to track down an old flame from when she was a teenager camping in the Ionia area in 1974. The only lead she has is remembering his first name, Scott, and possessing his class ring that bears the initials S.L.B. on the inside of the band.

Despite the best intentions, the letters stopped. A few more months passed. Then Jean received another letter. Scott wrote he had broken probation shortly after turning 18. The judge had given him a choice: Jail or the U.S. Army.

“I convinced him through our conversations that not many people get a second chance to start over,” Jean says. “He was offered a fresh start with some regimentation and order; things he maybe lacked at home. He took that chance and joined the army.”

After that call, communication between Jean and Scott came to an end. He was off to basic training, she concentrated on school. A year passed and Jean figured she had seen the last of Scott. They had been, she decided, two ships passing in the night.

All she had to remember him by was a single, somewhat blurry photo with the words, “Sorry. Scott” written in pencil on the back.

“I don’t even remember what he was supposed to be sorry for,” Jean says now. “I met him at the campground and we took the picture; that’s all I can really remember.”

That might have been the end of the story. But a year later, in the winter of 1975, Scott landed unexpectedly on Jean’s doorstep.

“He showed up all Army’d up,” Jean says. “He had his uniform and his duffel bag. There was a conversation between him and my parents that I was not privy to, but they wound up letting him stay at the house for the weekend.”

That Sunday, Scott was on a train, headed back to base. Before he left, he gave Jean his class ring and asked her to keep it safe for him until he got back.

Jean received just one letter from Scott after that. He was in Georgia and shipping out the following day to England.

“I never heard from him again after that last letter,” Jean explains. “He said he was happy and he was doing well. He thanked me for helping him make the right choice.”

For reasons even she doesn’t entirely understand, Jean continued to carry Scott’s class ring with her, hoping to one day return it to its rightful owner. Over the years, the ring took on something of a talismanic or totemistic quality; it was a connection to a time in her life she still remembers with fondness, a last link to the pretty, young girl she had been in high school.

Jean Chaney, right, posed for this picture with her then-boyfriend, Scott, at summer camp in 1974. She is now trying to find him in order to return his class ring.

Jean married, raised two boys while working at Shaw Electric in Livonia. She eventually divorced, retired, and moved to Harlingen, Texas, where her parents had retired some years earlier.

Through it all, she carried the ring.

Then last winter, while sorting through some packed away belongings, Jean stumbled on the photo from camp, now faded and somewhat dog-eared around the edges.

“I took that as a sign that I should keep looking,” Jean says. “But how do you search for someone when you don’t know his last name?”

Jean got a map of Montcalm County, hoping something there would jog her memory. She called area libraries looking for old yearbooks. She drove around to area schools with the ring and photo, hoping a teacher or administrator might recognize Scott and remember his last name.

Finding yearbooks from 1974 has not proven as easy as Jean had hoped, however. She has not been able to locate yearbooks from several area schools, not for ’74, at least.

Still, her search continues. She visits Michigan several times each year to see kids and grandkids, and each visit entails a little more research, a continuation of her quest to find her teen sweetheart.

Jean admits the odds are long, but she believes in possibilities.

“If he’s alive, I’d love to give him his ring back,” Jean says. “I want to hear about his life, hear what has happened to him.”

To that end, Jean has set up a special email address — scottsclassring@yahoo.com — in the hopes that someone will recognize Scott’s picture and provide some clues as to his current whereabouts.

“Every time I look at this ring, I go, ‘Hmm … I don’t know how you’re going to find me when I can’t seem to find you,’” Jeans says. “Scott was just a blip in my life, but I do believe in fairy tale endings.”

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