A 61-year-old cancer patient enjoyed an emotional, tearful reunion with his beloved college class ring — 39 years after losing it — thanks to the selfless efforts of a recreational fossil hunter who rescued the cherished keepsake from the bottom of the Cooper River in South Carolina.
CNN reported that Dr. Brian Tovin of Atlanta was diving for fossils and relics in 40 feet of murky water on August 23 when he spotted a shiny object embedded in the gravel. On closer inspection he realized he had found a 1974 College of Charleston class ring inscribed with the initials “RLP.”
Determined to find the owner of the large men’s ring, Tovin contacted the college’s alumni association and learned that only two people in the 1974 graduating class had those initials, and one was a woman. The “RLP” on this ring had to be the initials of Robert LeVaughn Phillips, so Tovin used his social media skills to track down Robert’s son, Eric.
The younger Phillips told Tovin that his dad was battling cancer and was still in the hospital recovering from brain surgery. Despite his dad’s fragile condition, the young Phillips arranged for Tovin to visit his dad’s hospital room in Charleston to make the special presentation.
On bended knee, Tovin opened a box that contained the ring Phillips hadn’t seen in 39 years. Phillips wept as he recounted that the ring was the last gift his mom gave him before she died of pancreatic cancer. He told a reporter that he believed his mom’s spirit may have played a role in the return of the ring that symbolized all that he was able to accomplish in his youth despite growing up without a father in his life. He had graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in business administration.
On a lighter note, Phillips revealed to Tovin and a CNN reporter how he lost the ring in the first place. He had been enjoying a day of boating with his future wife, Nancy, on the Cooper River when his two-week-old class ring got tangled in the pop-top of a beer can he had just opened. When he shook his hand to free the pop-top, the poorly sized ring shot off his finger and went flying into the water.
“No matter how much time he has with us, we’ll always have that ring. And it will always signify a good season of our life and a good memory of our father, and the fact that he got to share in it before he left us,” Eric Phillips told CNN.