Serendipity came after 30 years and several attempts from good Samaritans.
The last time Alicia Noland remembers seeing her class ring, “Seinfeld” was at its peak, and it was the "first golden age” of the Macintosh computer. She was also moving – nothing new for the self-described “gypsy.” This time, it was a short move, from San Andreas to Mountain Ranch.
Though 54-year-old Noland has lived in many different deserts and woods, something always brings her home to Calaveras County. It’s the peace, she says, and the family she’s grown here over the decades.
When she realized she’d lost her 1983 Calaveras High School class ring somewhere in the boxes and mayhem of moving life, Noland chalked it up as a loss.
“I don’t get upset about material items,” she said. “It was meant to happen.”
Still, the ring had been an expensive purchase, especially for a low-income teen who earned her own money babysitting and cleaning houses. Its white gold, embossed with Calaveras High’s now defunct Redskin mascot and Noland’s nickname, “Lisa,” cradled her birthstone, a rose zircon.
Noland was a bit of a rebel in her younger years, running with the stoner crowd at a school that was then known as the disadvantaged counterpart to the more affluent Bret Harte High School. During her tenure, there was a smoking area for students near the school office and weeds growing up from the track. Noland was never particularly fond of school. She liked cross country, working multiple jobs and sticking up for kids who were being bullied. Yet she “splurged” on the ring anyway.
Though she didn’t pause to lament its absence, she felt she’d lost a piece of history. Especially as she watched her old school grow up over the years, installing a high-quality track and building a theater. In 2016, changing political attitudes brought an end to Calaveras’ Redskin mascot.
“The school has done nothing but improved,” Noland said, though she thinks current students, who have no official mascot, are missing out on the sense of identity she experienced.
As the years went by, Noland kept moving. She raised her three children into adulthood, welcomed grandchildren and would finally settle for a while in Mokelumne Hill, surrounded by family. Around seven years ago, she received a call from a person who said they’d found her ring in a second-hand dresser they bought to furnish their home in San Andreas.
“Who knows how it got there,” Noland said. “It liked San Andreas so much, it stayed there this whole time.”
She went to the address she was given to retrieve the ring, but no one answered the door. Noland didn’t linger for too long.
“I thought it was lost again,” she said.
A few years later, she received a Facebook message request from a person she didn’t know and deleted it without reading. The message was from San Andreas resident Liane Roberts, whose husband, Patrick, a remote mechanic, had found the ring laying near a curb while working a job on Russell Road.
“I looked down and saw a shiny thing sitting there,” Patrick Roberts recalled.
He brought the ring home to his wife, who was determined to find its owner.
“I thought, ‘Gosh, she deserves her ring back,” said Liane Roberts, who, just a few years older than Noland, remembers how upset her own daughter was when she lost her class ring at the park. She ordered her another, though it wasn’t quite the same.
Roberts found Noland relatively quickly through a Facebook search, but when she didn’t get a reply, she assumed she’d contacted the wrong person.
Fast-forward to June 2020, and Roberts was preparing for the couple’s move to Oregon. Her thoughts went back to the ring that had lived in a basket in her home office for several years. She realized it was her last chance to return it. Again, she took to social media with renewed resolve, posting photos of the ring from every angle and imploring locals to get her in touch with its owner.
The response was overwhelming. Her post was shared about 15 times before a Facebook friend of her daughter, Noland’s daughter Desirae, contacted her. Almost immediately, Desirae was at Roberts’ door to pick up the ring. She took it home to her mother, who had it cleaned and placed it in a special shelf among her prized crystals.
Noland, who is also preparing for a move to Arizona, believes the entire saga was meant to happen. The ring still fits, and it will be a comfort to take with her.
“It brings back a lot of memories, and how the world has changed,” Noland said. It reminds her of who she was 30 years ago, and who she is today – a mother and grandmother who seeks the freedom of quiet places and still strives to protect the vulnerable.
But the “best part” of the whole experience were the efforts neighbors took to return her ring, she said, bombarding her with calls and even approaching her as she walked her dog, letting her know about Roberts’ post.
“It’s just nice to have in my possession again, and that people worked so diligently to get it back to me,” she said.
Although Roberts has never met Noland in person, Desirae thanked her on Noland’s behalf.
“I was just so happy that she got her ring back,” Roberts said.