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Paso class ring reunited with owner after 38 years

David Middlecamp

This is an odd little story with a ring of mystery to it.

It involves two 10-year-old fifth-graders at Hawthorne Elementary School and their teacher, a tributary to San Luis Obispo Creek, a puzzling 38-year gap in time and an unlikely reunion.

Sophie Kardel and Penny Kibbe — the 10-year-olds in question — are best friends, inseparable really.One late Sunday afternoon several weeks ago, Penny wanted to play in the little tributary to San Luis Obispo Creek that runs behind her house in southern San Luis Obispo. Sophie didn’t much care for the idea because she had her favorite boots on and didn’t want to mess them up. But she relented and the girls prowled along the creek’s banks.

Then, something caught their eyes.

“We saw something shiny, sort of under a rock,” explained Sophie between bites of sushi during a recent lunch hour at the school.

“It was a ring, and we thought that was crazy,” said the freckled Sophie, whose goals in life are to be a lawyer and then president of the United States.

“At first I thought it was a vending machine ring,” added Penny, “and then a wedding ring.”“We didn’t know what it was,” said Sophie, finishing Penny’s thoughts.

So the girls took the ring to Penny’s mother, Ginger, who recognized it as a high school class ring. Sophie wanted to keep the gold band with ruby inset, seeing as it was already stuck on her thumb.

And, as a big fan of the movie “Lord of the Rings” (she does a spot-on impression of Gollum’s refrain, “My precious”), she was prepared to be a female version of Frodo Baggins. That plan, alas, didn’t fly.

Once the ring was off Sophie’s thumb, Ginger could see some faint initials inside: BFS. It was decided that Sophie would hold onto the ring.

Sophie’s mom, Amy, had reservations about her daughter taking the ring to school the following day, but it’s tough to argue with someone who’s got legal and presidential aspirations.

So off it went to school, where Sophie and Penny showed their trophy find to their teacher, Marc Riley.

Riley studied the ring, saw Paso Robles High School etched into the band and realized it was a 1973 class ring. Judging from the size of it, it had belonged to a female.

In a stroke of luck and deduction, Riley had graduated from Paso High in 1972, so he took the ring home, checked his yearbook from 1972, and then checked female students in the junior class behind him for any girl with the initials BFS.

Bingo!

“I knew who it was in five minutes,” said the popular teacher while eating a California roll. Her name was Brenda Silva.

A call to a person organizing a Paso High class reunion for the early ’70s provided him the name and number of Silva’s sister, who lives in southern Salinas Valley. She told Riley her sister lived at Lake Tahoe.

Brenda Frances Silva, now Brenda McGirr, a ski instructor in the winter and standup paddleboard instructor in the summer, was stunned to hear that the ring she’d lost in 1973 had been found 38 years later in a little tributary to San Luis Obispo Creek.

A well-tanned, physically fit mother of four, McGirr explained at the sushi lunch reunion that she remembers working out in the Bearcat gym on the uneven parallel bars and that she had, for comfort reasons, taken the ring off and put it in a chalk box.

She was running late for class after her workout and forgot the ring. That was the last she saw of it — until last Tuesday, seemingly no worse for wear after almost four decades and sitting in a creek.

And that’s where this tale has an odd ring of mystery about it: How did the ring make its way from Paso Robles to San Luis Obispo Creek in southern San Luis Obispo? The creek doesn’t originate over the Cuesta Grade, so by what means, and by whom, did the wayward class ring migrate more than 30 miles into Penny Kibbe’s backyard watercourse?

If you have any clues, contact Bill Morem at 781-7852 or bmorem@thetribunenews.com.

If theft was involved, Sophie Kardel could argue your case. If that doesn’t work, wait a few years and she may just grant you a presidential pardon.

Sophie hopes to cook up a scholarship

In addition to finding class rings in creeks, Sophie Kardel’s life is on a roll in another direction — a Golden Peanut Yum Yum Roll to be precise.

The Hawthorne Elementary School fifth-grader is among the top 10 national finalists in the Jif Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich Contest.

A $25,000 college scholarship hangs in the balance if her creation makes it into the final five and then wins. Those five finalists will be judged in New York City in March.

Here’s how you can help Sophie earn that scholarship (which will help her achieve her goals of becoming a lawyer and then president of the United States): Go to www.jif.com and vote for Sophie’s Yum Yum Rolls. You can vote once a day through Feb. 3. Click here for her recipe.

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