ROXBURY, NJ – Who’s the real Lord of the Rings? If you ask Roxbury High School graduate Jacqueline Marchut, she might point to Karen Bailey at the University of Hertfordshire.
That’s in Hatfield, England, not the darkest depths of Mordor. And Bailey works in the student center, not The Dark Tower.
Bailey reunited Marchut with her precious Roxbury High School Class of 2003 ring this week. In doing so she showed tenacity that would make Frodo Baggins proud.
“I’m a bit of an old romantic,” she said. “I believe to treat people as you would want to be treated yourself.”
As did Frodo, Bailey had some help. She was aided by an honest and observant Englishman named Marcus Gleghorn, who found himself in the university library one day when something unusual caught his eye. It was a silvery, kind of clunky, ring in which was embedded a clear stone.
Looking closely at the object, Gleghorn saw it was adorned with tiny etchings that surely held deep meaning for somebody. They indicated an affinity for snowboarding, track, volleyball and ballet.
Did the ring launch Gleghorn into an alternate state of consciousness and render him invincible? Only he knows. But something, a powerful guiding energy, prompted the young man to take the ring not to a London pawn shop but instead to the student center.
And so the ring worked its way into the care of Bailey, an advisor at the center. “He was a lovely young man,” said Bailey of Gleghorn. “Marcus was of the same mind as me. We didn’t want the ring to just get put in a drawer of lost property and forgotten. We could see it must be of sentimental value.”
Being a person trusted for advice, Bailey knew what needed to be done. Indeed, the ring spoke to her. In fact, it spoke in a language she understood, for its engraved words were in English.
Bailey began a quest to reunite the ring with its master. The letters it bore carried a name: “Jacque Caliente.” There was no record of a Hertfordshire student or staffer, past or present, with that name. Driven by an immutable force, she invoked the power of the Internet.
Google churned. Time, as it usually does, passed.
One day, shortly thereafter, the phone rang at the Roxbury High School front office. Unaware she was about to be pulled into a strange, transcontinental tale of mystery and kismet, Nancy Presti, school secretary, said something along the lines of, “Hello. Roxbury High School.”
By now, Marchut’s ring might have started to glow. For it was getting very close to the reunion it clearly sought.
From thousands of miles away, the voice of Karen Bailey informed the dutiful secretary that an Internet search had revealed the existence of a Roxbury High School alumni page, a page that contained a name that matched the one so lovingly recorded all those years ago, by a school ring vendor, on the lost, and found, keepsake.
Another phone was soon ringing, this time at the Berkshire Valley home of John and Sande Calienti, the people who parented the ring’s owner, who’d long since moved to Sparta. Presti, Bailey, Gleghorn and a homesick, persistent ring needed to know: Was Jacque there?
A whirlwind of information-sharing ensued. The teenager named Jacque who once took a summer job at the high school office, and worked next to Presti, was now a married woman. She’d earned a master’s degree, she’d married Kevin Marchut, she was a new mother. And she remembered the day she lost her class ring.
Within days, the ring was in an envelope, soaring over the Atlantic. It now hangs on Marchut’s Christmas tree.
Not once in her life did Marchut step foot on the grounds of Hertfordshire University. She attended Penn State and Villanova. How the ring got to England remains a mystery. How it disappeared is not.
“I remember losing it,” she said. “I lost it on a cruise with my parents in 2005. It was one of those things where I had my clothes folded and all my things packed to go. I guess I put the ring on top and it fell off while I was closing my suitcase.”
She loved the white-gold ring and, upon finding it missing, she and her parents immediately called the cruise company. “We gave them the room number,” she said. “I was devastated.”
The cruise company said nobody found (or reported finding) the ring. After a while, Marchut forgot about the lost $300 souvenir of her Roxbury High School career.
But somewhere overseas, her beloved possession survived.
“Somebody must have found the ring, had it on them, carried it around for a pretty long time and lost it,” said Marchut. “I’m assuming it must have been found and lost again.”
The tales it could tell! How many close calls did it endure? What does it know? How close did it come to being melted? Can it answer the one really big question that spins through Marchut’s mind: “Who would wear somebody else’s class ring or carry it around with them?”
In the end, the questions aren't important.
“This is a nice story with a happy ending,” said Presti. “I thought it was so nice that Karen Bailey went through all this trouble. She was very excited about it.”
“I do love happy endings,” said Bailey. “I have no idea how that ring ended up in the UK or at our university. If that ring could tell its tale, I would love to know it myself.”