Ring lost for decades found in Hancock sewer

April 11, 1997


Staff Writer

HANCOCK - You could say Roto-Rooter's Rick Sword was flushed with excitement Thursday night to find a 1949 school ring in the bottom of a Hancock sewer main manhole.

Vivian Graham of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., was stunned when she found out the ring she sent spinning down the toilet decades ago had finally surfaced. "Miracles do happen," she said Friday.

Sword, service manager at Sword's Roto-Rooter in Hagerstown, said he was sifting through debris washed into a manhole by a jet of water used to clean the sewer line when he saw the ring.


"It was in excellent shape. You could see the year and initials clearly. It had a ruby red stone in it," Sword said. Usually rings found in sewer lines show signs of corrosion, he said.

Sword gave the Hancock High School ring with the initials VAY to Town Manager Lou Close. Close found out it belonged to Vivian Adeline Yeakle, who had married a man named Graham and was living in Berkeley Springs.

Vivian Graham, who is now 66, said Friday she recalls vividly how she lost the ring, but can't remember exactly when. It was sometime between 1956 and 1961 while she was working at the People's National Bank in Hancock, she said.

Graham said she had gone to the bathroom to wash her coffee cup. She put her ring on the back of the commode. As she was flushing a paper towel down the toilet, Graham accidentally hit the edge of the ring with her coffee cup.

"It went up like a rainbow and down in the commode and that's the last I saw of it,"she said. "It's been down the drain longer than I ever had it."

Graham said the ring was a school ring students got as juniors. It cost about $26 - a lot in those days - and she used money she had earned to pay for it.

Plans are for Sword to present Graham with the ring in a ceremony early next week, Roto-Rooter officials said.

"For the first 24 hours I'll just sit and look at it," Graham said. "Then, if it fits, I'll wear it. If not, I'll put it on a chain - keep it close to my heart."

Graham's ring was just one of many "treasures" Sword says he's found down the drain. On Thursday in Hancock he said he also found a button dated 1849, a silver spoon, and another inexpensive ring.

Other things he's dislodged with the company's 4,000-lb. per-square-inch "jet" cleaner include pocket change, underwear, jewelry, faucet handles, keys, bullets and animals.

"We've flushed out a couple groundhogs and chipmunks. They stagger a little when they come out, but they seem OK," Sword said.

According to Roto-Rooter, technicians nationwide report an impressive array of finds, including $50,000 believed to be a payoff for a murder.

Snakes, fish and cats make up 42 percent of the unusual items found, while things such as hearing aids, dentures, glass eyes and toupees are the next most common finds at 16 percent, Roto-Rooter said.

Briefs, bras and other undies come in third at 8 percent, the company said.

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