BRUNSWICK — Debrara McKenna may never know how her husband’s class ring, lost nearly 50 years ago at a department store in Portland, ended up buried in a forest in Finland, but the speculation is half the fun. 

“For it to turn up … I want that story,” McKenna said Friday, about a week after the ring arrived on her doorstep, bringing an end to its half-century overseas journey. “How it went from here to there in all those years. … How the heck did it get there? How can that be?” 

Shawn McKenna’s 1973 Morse High School class ring turned up in a Finnish forest earlier this year, almost 50 years after his future wife, Debra McKenna, lost it in Portland. Photo courtesy of Debra McKenna

In January, Finnish sheet metal worker Marko Saarinen was looking for treasures in the Kaarina Forest when his metal detector pinged back a clear signal. He unearthed a 1973 Morse High School class ring, engraved with the initials S.M. 

It didn’t take long, just a little internet sleuthing and some conversation with the Bath Alumni Association, to find the ring had belonged to Shawn McKenna, 1973 class president. 

“It was an incredible feeling when a great ring was revealed from the ground,” Saarinen told the Finnish newspaper Ilta Sanomet, which translates to the Evening News. “Usually my findings are bottle caps or other junk,” he said. 

In 1973, Shawn McKenna gave the class ring to his girlfriend, Debra, who within just a few years would become his wife. Just 16 years old at the time, she lost it not long after when she took it off to wash her hands at Porteous, Mitchell & Braun Co. in Portland, she told the Bangor Daily News last week.  By the time she went back to look for it, it was already gone. 

“I figured it was lost forever,” Debra McKenna said Friday. “I thought about it every once in a while, whenever there was a reunion, I thought it would be cool if Shawn’s ring would resurface so he could wear it,” she said, but beyond that it never preyed on her mind. Shawn was never materialistic, she said, and did not have much time to get attached to it, so he wasn’t too upset when she lost his ring. 

Shawn McKenna passed away in 2017 after a six-year battle with cancer, but Debra thinks if he were still here, the discovery of his old ring would really “take him for a spin,” she said, laughing.

Debra and Shawn McKenna started dating in 1973 while they both attended Morse High School. Photo courtesy of Debra McKenna

“He would think it was really cool” she added. “He never believed in coincidences. … He was very logical. He would want to know what the backstory was.” 

She may never know how it ended up over 3,500 miles away or what sort of stories the ring might be able to tell, but she hopes one day the person who took it might come forward and help her unravel the mystery. 

Despite being lost for decades and spending an unknown period of time buried in the ground, it’s still in pretty good condition, with just a few scratches on the stone’s surface. She’s put it on a few times since it was returned to her. For now, it’s tucked away, being kept safe until it’s ready to be passed down to one of her kids or her grandchildren. 

“It’s a very sweet reminder of the beginning of our courtship, our marriage and our lives,” she said. 

Since word got out, she has been inundated with friends and strangers alike reaching out about the story. 

“It’s fun to see how many people have been touched by it,” she said. “It’s always good to have those feel-good stories.” 

Long-lost class rings have been turning up for years, but recently, with the help of social media, many have found their way back to their original owners. 

In June, a Massachusetts man found a 1960 Gate of Heaven High School class ring at the bottom of a pond and returned it to the woman who lost it almost 60 years ago. 

Shawn and Debra McKenna were married for 40 years before Shawn passed from cancer in 2017. His wife said he never believed in coincidence and would want to know the back story behind his ring turning up so far away after all that time. Photo courtesy of Debrara McKenna

In December, a class ring lost by an Oregon woman in 1975 turned up more than 40 years later in a pile of dirt about 30 miles away.

Just last month, a man in Pennsylvania posted pictures on Facebook and Reddit of a 2007 class ring he said was found in Afghanistan, according to the Portland Press Herald. The ring, inscribed with the name Josh, the school initials KHS and the word “Rams,” was quickly connected with Josh Raymond, a 2007 graduate of Kennebunk High School, whose mascot is the ram. Raymond, the school, his friends and his family were inundated with calls, texts and emails about his ring. But it wasn’t his. Raymond never had a class ring. 

Instead, the ring belonged to, and was reunited with, Joshua Wadley, who graduated in 2007 from Kashmere High School in Houston. Wadley served in the military and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009-10, where he said he must have lost it. 

Luckily for McKenna, Saarinen did not have a widely shared post, just a contact at the alumni association who reached out to her. 

She hasn’t reached out to Saarinen yet to thank him for returning the ring to her, but she plans to soon. “The fact that the young man was kind enough to research this and track down the owner, it’s a wonderful piece of humanity,” McKenna said adding that for now she just wants “to bask in the fact that there are good people out there, and ride that good feeling.” 

Comments are not available on this story.