Over the Hill

Class ring comes up the drain

Cindy Koontz Woodhead lost her Paso Robles High School class ring at least 15 years ago. It was in a Paso Robles sewer, but nobody knew.

Then last year it was found, and she wore it to her class’s 25th anniversary reunion this past July. This is the story of how it was found.

“I had no idea I’d lost it,” she said. “I just forgot about it.”

She had other things on her mind. She moved from Paso Robles in 1997, now lives in West Hills in Los Angeles and is married to Will Woodhead.

She works in real estate development and has two children: daughter Alexa, 19, and son Marcus, 14.

Back in May 2009, Paso Robles sewer workers were cleaning out a sewer line. They threaded a special high-pressure hose into sewer. The business end of the hose shoots out jets of pressurized water at a rearward slant. That action propels the hose forward through the pipe.

The hose travels until it reaches the next manhole. Then the workers reel it back, with its water still pelting. That water sweeps all the debris back with the hose. The debris and water are then vacuumed into a tank on the workers’ truck.

The tank is later emptied onto a concrete drying bed at the sewage treatment plant before being disposed of.

Doug Chase is waste treatment operator at the plant. He said they often find stuff in the debris and sewage. This month, it was three false-teeth plates. Sometimes it’s drug paraphernalia, which goes to the police.

But on that day back in May of 2009, a worker noticed a ring in the debris. It was totally black, but Chase thought it said “Paso Robles High School.” He cleaned it with mild acid. It was a girl’s ring, bearing the initials C.K.

At the Paso Robles library, he looked in the 1985 high school yearbook for senior girls whose initials were C.K.

There was only one: Cindy Koontz.

Using Facebook, Chase found Cindy Koontz Woodhead, who graduated from Paso Robles High in 1985. He messaged her through Facebook that her ring was found.

A jeweler friend of Chase’s cleaned the ring until it looked new. Chase then put it in a ring box and mailed it to its owner.

She received her long-lost class ring in the same week that her daughter, Alexa, graduated from high school.

Cindy Koontz Woodhead said, “Only in Paso Robles would you find someone who cared enough to do all that.”

Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than four decades. His column appears here every week. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.