Long Lost Ring Found

Friday, November 5, 2010 - 3:20pm

Treasure hunter tracks down owner of class ring lost off the Florida coast 31 years ago.

After 31 years, a Jacksonville, Florida man has been reunited with the high school class ring he lost in 1979.

In high school, Steve Iocco was an outgoing athlete.

He graduated from Forrest High School in Jacksonville in 1978 and got a class ring as a senior.

A year later Iocco lost it while swimming in the lake at Gold Head Branch State Park in Keystone Heights.

"We were in the water; I had my goggles on. I was swimming around looking for it," Iocco said.

After two solid hours, he gave up and went back home to Jacksonville.

He thought it was gone forever.

It was avid scuba diver Larry Stewart, who made regular trips to a favorite spot off the coast near Tampa, who changed all that.

His eyes were always searching for jewels.

"There's Spanish wrecks all up and down the coast of Florida," said Stewart.

One day, three years after Iocco lost his ring and 30 miles out to sea, he thought he finally struck gold: "The blue stone caught my eye, so I went and pulled it out of the reef."

When he brought it to the surface, Stewart realized it was a high school class ring.

He kept it, but eventually forgot about it, then unknowingly packed it when he moved to Tennessee.

It was retrieved a few months ago once again by his wife, who decided to find the ring's owner.

She turned to the internet to find Forrest High School and the confederate rebel mascot, both inscribed in the ring.

The only school to pop up in her search was Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville.

She contacted Buddy Harris, of Jacksonville, who manages the school's alumni website.

"From there it was just a matter of finding out who it belonged to," said Harris.

The font used to inscribe the owner's name on the ring wasn't clear.

"It said Steve, but she said it was Joco to start and I never heard of the name Joco," said Harris.

It wasn't until weeks later, Harris got another call from Tennessee.

"She said, 'You know, that script, it could be an 'I'' and I said 'Iocco' and the light went off."

In fact, Harris and Iocco were friends in high school, but had lost contact.

Harris found Iocco's relative on Facebook and ultimately, his phone number.

It was the best phone call, he said.

"Oh, I was saying, 'God bless you. I'm going to get back to you. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart," said Iocco, who admits the ring is now tighter than it was when he was 19.

How it ended up off Tampa, however, is a mystery.

Local biologists said there is no way Iocco's ring could have flowed into the Gulf.

The lakes at Gold Head State Branch Park are a closed system, meaning there's no outside stream or aquifer that connects to them.

Iocco said while he'd like to know how it got there, the important thing is his ring is back.

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