Metal detectorist discovers Punta Gorda man’s 1938 class ring

A Navy veteran’s high school class ring, which family members did not know existed, was returned to them in a welcomed surprise. A Charlotte High School graduate, Class of 1938, had lost it decades ago, but a metal detectorist in Punta Gorda unearthed it and went on a mission to return it.

Metal Detectorist Gage Goettl discovered Charles Chidester Johnson’s class ring under an oak tree on a Baptist church’s property in Punta Gorda, and Goettl was able to return it to his family.

“And that’s just great handing history back like this. It’s the way we do it,” Goettl said. “Somebody that was actually as significant as he was, not just founded Punta Gorda but Charlotte County in general. Now that’s icing on the cake at that point.”

The church property was formerly a baseball field.

“We’re lucky that it wasn’t buried underneath the church that was built since then,” Goettl said. “Here in Punta Gorda, history is everything.”

Goettl was looking for something special in the old field.

“Sure enough, up popped the ring and wiped it clean and saw the date on it,” Goettl said. “Was just shocked; that’s 80 years ago.”

Social media helped Goettl return the ring to Johnston’s family.

“Got home, cleaned it off a little bit and posted in the Punta Gorda Now and Then Facebook page, and it just took off, and the people just loved it,” Goettl said. “Everybody was sharing sharing, re-sharing.”

A football photo surfaced with an athlete whose name matched the initials on the ring.

“That’s when we knew we had our guy,” Goettl said.

Gregory Johnson of St. Augustine never knew his father, Charles, had lost a ring.

“I guess obviously I wish my father were here, so he could accept it because,” Johnson said. “I’m sure it would bring memories to him.”

But Johnson knows his father lived a rich life, and this band was just a part of it.

“You think about the things you remember well and the things you regret not saying,” Johnson said. “Some people might keep it as a souvenir, but he returned it.”

The Johnson family drove down from St. Augustine to retrieve the ring. They plan to pass it down their grandchildren and pass it around the table at holidays and tell stories.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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