But life is full of surprises, and thanks to the kindness of a stranger, Swint and her class ring were reunited a few weeks ago in San Antonio.
“It was the greatest surprise of my life,” Swint said. “It was just wonderful! I never dreamed that I would see it again.”
Swint, who graduated as “Jo Lynn Smith” from Kenedy High School in 1969 only had the ring for about a year when Hurricane Celia slammed the Texas coast in 1970 with winds as high as 180 MPH.
When the storm hit, Swint was in the hospital in Corpus Christi with her son Mitch, who was only two days old and the hospital had to be evacuated because of the hurricane.
“We had a mobile home out on Highway 9 in a mobile home park,” Swint explained.
They bundled up and took shelter with an aunt and after the storm they sadly discovered that their mobile home and all their belongings inside was gone – completely vanished as it was swept away by the hurricane winds.
“Everything was gone,” Swint said, describing the devastation. “Including the ring.”
Swint, who owns an antiques store in San Antonio called “Off My Rocker,” was working in the store about a year ago when the phone rang and the caller asked her some puzzling questions.
The caller asked, “Am I speaking to Jo Lynn Smith?”
Swint told the man he was speaking to Jo Lynn Swint, but her maiden name was Smith.
He told her that he thought he had something that belongs to her, but wanted to ask a few questions to make sure he was speaking with the rightful owner.
He asked Swint if she was from Kenedy, and if she attended Kenedy High School, and if so, what year did she graduate.
Swint told him she was a member of the Class of 1969 at Kenedy High School.
“He asked me, ‘Did you happen to lose a class ring?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I did, back in 1970 during Hurricane Celia I lost everything I had and part of that was my class ring.’”
The man introduced himself as Mel Bockholt and told Swint an interesting story.
Bockholt, as a boy, would spend time “treasure hunting” fields in Tuloso Midway with his father using a metal detector, and over time, his dad accumulated an interesting collection of “treasures” that they had found together.
Bockholt told Swint that he specifically remembers the day he and his dad found the ring.
All the trinkets were kept in a cigar box, where special items were stored after they had been found.
After Bockholt’s dad passed away, Bockholt’s mom gave Mel the box.
At the time, he didn’t give much thought to the items, and he set it aside, but one day several months later he picked it up and was looking through the box and found the ring.
Bockholt used a magnifying glass to examine the details of the ring and he noticed faint initials were inscribed on the inside edge – JLS.
He then went online and did some internet searches for Kenedy grads with those three initials. He found a list of the graduates from the class of 1969 and checked the list to see if any names matched the three initials.
“I was the only one with those initials,” Swint said.
Bockholt then searched for “Jo Lynn Smith” on the Internet and the searches eventually led him to the phone number of Swint’s store in San Antonio. He promised to return the ring to its rightful owner, the next time he visited San Antonio.
That visit came a few weeks ago, and Swint met him for lunch.
“The minute I saw him, I just absolutely fell apart in tears,” Swint said, “because I knew it was real.”
Jo Lynn and her husband Clay sat down together at the table with Mel and his girlfriend at the restaurant for what they knew was going to be a special moment.
“He had it all cleaned up and it was in a little box, and he handed it to me, and I just fell apart,” Swint said. “He teared up, and I was sobbing.”
The sentimental value of the ring, and the memories associated with it are absolutely priceless, Swint explained.
“It was just so special,” Swint said, expressing her gratitude to a stranger who went to such great lengths to return a precious ring to its rightful owner who lost it so very long ago.
“Mel Bockholt is just a wonderful man. He is just going to be my friend for life.”