A couple of weeks ago, we told you about Connell Raate, a member of The Ring Finders. That’s a group of people that uses their metal detectors to, well, find rings. Connell has been trying to identify the owner of a ring he found a few years back in the waters of Oneida Lake. He showed us pictures of it then and shared his research. “This has turned out to be an Army Air Corps pilot’s ring,” he said.
We hoped our original story might turn up the original owner. Connell assumes that the pilot who first wore it would be over 100 years old, and may sadly have passed. Any personal markings have long since worn away, and while Connell has posted pictures on social media over the years, he fears the pilot’s children and grandchildren probably never knew the ring existed. “Every ring has a story. Can you imagine if this thing could talk?,” Connell says. “I betcha this thing was in a bomber or a fighter in Europe in World War II. What could this thing say? I wish it could talk,” he says with a chuckle.
For years, Connell tried to imagine the backstory behind the ring. Now, we’ve been able to help fill in more of that story. Bob Searing is the Curator of History at the Onondaga Historical Association. We met him at Syracuse Hancock International Airport. Hancock was built on the site of an Army Air Base built in Mattydale during World War II. Construction began just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. “There were 12-hundred guys here in the summer of 1942,” Bob says, “Including Curtis LeMay’s bomber group. And those B17’s and those B24’s, I mean, they saved the world from facism.”
As of this Memorial Day weekend, the ring has found a new home. Connell is giving it to OHA for display in the Syracuse Aviation Museum at the airport. The museum is open during airport business hours and free to everyone. It honors Central New York’s rich history of aviation: passenger, commercial, and military. Bob says “I’m ecstatic. We have some things from the World War II era, but it was very difficult to find anything that was actually connected to the Army Air Base that was here.”
The Pilot’s Ring will go on display soon in one of the exhibit cases, thanks to Connell and The Ring Finders. The group includes six volunteers from around Central New York with a passion to reunite lost treasures and their owners. According to Penny Shutts, a Ring Finder from Sandy Creek, “Our goal is to find whatever is lost and get it back to ’em, whether it be a ring or keys or a phone. Anything that’s metal.”
The Ring Finders are part of a network of metal detecting specialists around the globe. If you’ve lost a ring or other valuables you can find one in your area through the interactive map on TheRingFinders.com.
Before we left the airport, Connell Raate talked a bit about his experience. “I’ve seen so much of this. I really believe, I think the guy that lost this brought me to it.”
“Was (the original owner) here in Syracuse? I don’t know,” OHA’s Bob Searing says. “Did he live in Syracuse after? We’ll never know. But as (Connell) said, maybe the angels were there that day to bring it out of the water so we can put it in the museum to continue to let that story live on. It feels like this is the place that it belongs, right?”