Early last summer, Scott McAdam was getting out his car in a Meijer parking lot in suburban Homer Glen when he kicked something on the ground. Hearing a clanking metallic sound, the longtime Forest Park business owner looked down and saw an engraved class ring belonging to one Erik DeLaney, a 1983 graduate of Thornton Fractional North High School in nearby Calumet City.
A phone call to Thornton got McAdam nowhere and the school referred him to the ring manufacturer. Still, Mcadam couldn’t locate DeLaney.
“I kind of dropped it and didn’t do much with it,” McAdam said. “I left it sitting on my desk all summer.”
Last week, Scott’s son, Scott Jr., who also works for McAdam Landscaping, walked into his father’s office and saw the ring, still visible on the desk. Busy running his business, McAdam hadn’t tried searching for DeLaney for some time but still felt responsible for returning the ring to its owner.
“I’m a believer that things happen for a reason,” Scott Jr. added. “Knowing his pay-it-forward attitude, it was something I don’t think he was going to give up on. He’s definitely the type of person who wants to follow something through to completion.”
The pair tried calling Thornton again but got only voicemail. So the younger McAdam, a bit more tech savvy than his father, started Googling, using what information they had: graduation year, name and school.
After a few minutes, he discovered an online directory listing alumni. Several searches later, Scott Jr. found two phone numbers for a man with the same name and roughly the same age living in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
“It was basically just following and connecting the dots.” Scott Jr. said.
Scott Sr. grabbed the phone and gave the man a call.
Erik DeLaney, who had moved to Florida in 1998 for a job and now works in the solar power industry, was sitting with a client when his phone rang. DeLaney still has family, friends and clients living in the Chicago area, so a phone call from the 708 area code wasn’t unusual.
But when an unknown voice on the other end of the line asked if he had lost a class ring three decades ago, DeLaney knew the call was anything but ordinary.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,'” DeLaney, whom the Review reached by phone in Florida, recalled. “I was shocked. I never thought I’d see it again.”
Back in 1985, DeLaney, who at the time was helping coach track and field at Illiana Christian High School, was at a meet at Luther North High School in Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood. He had taken the ring off to demonstrate a discus throw and set it aside on the ground.
“I didn’t have any pockets,” DeLaney recalled. “But a storm came out of nowhere [and] we all just took off running.”
On the bus ride back to Illiana, DeLaney realized he’d left his ring. He drove back to Luther and searched in the dark with a flashlight.
“It was muddy and nasty,” DeLaney said. “I didn’t locate the ring. At the time, it was upsetting; I spent a lot of money on that ring.”
That was 31 year ago. DeLaney said he hadn’t thought much about it since that day, figuring it was lost forever.
So after giving McAdam his mailing address and offering him hockey tickets to a Panthers/Blackhawks game as a thank you, DeLaney turned back toward his customer.
“He told me I was pale and looked kind of strange,” DeLaney said. “I told him ‘I just got the surprise of a lifetime.'”
DeLaney said the ring is still in good shape. Where it was for 31 years and just how it traveled nearly 40 miles from Portage Park to the Meijer parking in Homer Glen remains a mystery. Nevertheless, the ring is back with its rightful owner.
“It was an awesome feeling and a great weekend,” McAdam Sr. said.
After encouragement from his wife and daughter, McAdam decided to author a Facebook post, recounting his efforts to find the ring’s owner. The post quickly racked up dozens of comments and “likes.”
“I’ve never used [social media] before like that, so I was really stunned to find that people responded that way,” McAdam said. “The response I got was overwhelming. It wasn’t what I expected.”
When reached by phone, McAdam and DeLaney both mentioned the recently concluded presidential election and said people seem to appreciate a heartwarming, positive story after such a divisive campaign season.
“To find somebody who went out of their way to make someone happy, to reunite them with something they lost, is amazing to me,” DeLaney said. “It’s not something you see anymore.”