Man wants to return your Overlea SS High School ring from 1978
Are you ‘H.J.D’? Man wants to return your Overlea high school ring from 1978
COLIN MCCONNELL / TORONTO STAR
John Slade found a ring from what is now Marc Garneau high school in 1979, in the snow in Brampton and has been trying to find its owner ever since.
By: Daniel Dale City Hall, Published on Tue Jan 28 2014
John Slade tells people about the ring he found, and then they give him advice, and then he ignores them.
His sister told him he should pawn it. Somebody else told him he should take the stone out and make his own piece of jewelry. His boss at the sign company gave him a C’mon Slade, told him he should just forget about the whole thing.
None of these suggestions were especially unreasonable. Slade found the ring in 1979.
Here’s how he tells the tale. He was 9 years old, walking to his elementary school in Brampton on a winter day without snow, when he saw something silver in the grass on Herkley Dr. It was a class ring from 1978: “Overlea S.S.” on the outside, the initials “H.J.D.” on the inside, the school’s cougar mascot, a purple gemstone.
He wrote out some Found posters and taped them to light poles the next day. He got no response.
And then he put the ring in a box and didn’t really think about it for 20 years, when something inside told him to renew his childhood search for H.J.D.
It did not go well.
He used a magnifying glass to read the tiny name of the ring manufacturer, then called the company in Alberta; a person there told him they didn’t have records going back that far. He took a day off work to visit the school, now called Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute; a secretary told him they couldn’t tell him who H.J.D. was for privacy reasons. She took him to the school library; it was missing the 1978 yearbook.
He contacted the office of the actual Marc Garneau, the Member of Parliament and former astronaut. He hung out in the parking lot of a gathering of Overlea alumni. He even showed up unannounced at the Muskoka home of a retired Overlea principal. The man invited him in for tea. Like everyone else, he couldn’t help.
Finally discouraged, Slade took a break for more than five years. But he picked up the hunt again a few weeks ago.
He’s a 44-year-old sign-maker, not very good with computers, so he recruited his 14-year-old son to help him with the Googling. They have found a few members of Overlea’s ’78 class, and called them, but nobody has called back.
Slade might’ve gotten the break he needed when he called the Star last week. We sought comment from leaders of the school’s alumni association. Upon hearing Slade’s story, and then upon seeing photos of the ring, association president Vinod Mahabir marveled. He attended Overlea from 1978 to 1982.
“That’s our ring, man! That is our ring,” he says. “I looked at it and all the visuals came back. You can see my smile through the phone, right? I was like, ‘Holy hell Hannah, this is amazing.”
Mahabir called Slade on Monday morning and told him the alumni association will now pick up the search. By the middle of the week, Mahabir says, an email will go out to the 1,500-odd people in the association database. He says he is “highly optimistic” H.J.D. will be found.
“I am, like, 1,000 per cent shocked at John’s determination,” he says. “I think these are the — gems of life, if I can put it like that. This guy has had this thing for 35 years, has kept it, has led his own search, and to come full circle, to find individuals from the graduating class’s era, who remember that time period and most of the classmates, who can now help him in his quest…” He paused. “This sounds corny, eh?”
Slade does things like winter camping in Algonquin Park, and he jokes that he is “a little crazy.” Mostly, though, he just thinks he is doing “the right thing to do.”
“It’s not mine. And somebody worked hard for this, and somebody deserves to have it back. I don’t want anything in return. I don’t want a reward, I don’t want anything. I just want this person to have it back,” he says.
“I just do it because — I don’t know. Maybe it was meant for me to find it and meant for me to return it. I did graduate, but I never got a ring. And I wish I had a ring. So maybe this person wishes they had a ring.
“The person’s getting up there in age, and I’m getting up there in age, and I don’t want to keep putting it off and putting it off and one day I find the person’s gone, and I missed the opportunity. And if I did miss the opportunity now, that’s fine. But maybe the person has a son or daughter.”
The purple gemstone leads Slade to believe H.J.D. was born in February. He was also born in February. He wants to give the ring back by February.
He thinks it would make a good birthday gift.
If you know who H.J.D. might be, email the Star at firstname.lastname@example.org .