Army general's lost ring unearthed in East Lansing

EAST LANSING, MICH. - John Wallace III, a recent transplant from Seattle, spotted a treasure when he was raking yard debris Sunday afternoon at his new house.

His finds are a family joke as he has a habit of unearthing a rusted nail or other junk and displaying it as a "treasure" to his wife, Heidi.

This time, though, he struck gold, quite literally.

Wallace spied a band of metal shining up from dark dirt near the front of his brick house as he raked. It was the back of a ring. When he pulled it out and cleaned it, he found a gold-and-jade ring.

From the inscription, he knew it belonged to a 1931 graduate of West Point, the U.S. Military Academy. Part of a name “Miller Osborne” was on the inside of the band with the last name worn away.

“Gold doesn’t corrode. It was as shiny as the day it fell in there,” Wallace said.

Wallace said he and his wife found the mid-century modern house by accident while driving through the neighborhood to another house and immediately fell in love with it. They made an offer the next day. He still had Susie Perry’s phone number from the sale of the house in June.

On Sunday, he texted her photos of the ring.

“It was amazing that they found it. It was under some mulch. I would mulch out there periodically and rake but I never saw it,” Susie Perry said.

Wallace’s theory is that the ring was buried but Michigan’s “freeze and thaw” cycle, pushed the jewelry above ground.

The ring was important to her father, Perry said. He served in WWII, the Korean War and spent time in Vietnam in the 1950s.

As a colonel, he was wounded in the first U.S. ground battle of the Korean War (known as Task Force Smith) when outgunned and outnumbered Army infantry troops held off invading North Korean forces before being overrun at the Battle of Osan. He was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in the battle.

Known to his friends as Moppy, a play on his initials, Perry retired in 1961 and earned a master’s degree from MSU. He was hired as assistant to the dean in international studies. His wife, Pauline, died in 1985.

The couple were affectionately called Moppy and Polly, though some would flip it and call them Poppy and Molly.

After he lost his ring, Susie Perry said her father contacted Tiffany’s, the maker of the ring, and had a replacement ring made. Tiffany’s had the original mold for the piece. Later, a jade from the ring of a relative was placed in it.

After her father’s death, Perry donated the replacement ring to West Point, which has a tradition called “ring melt.” The rings of previous generations of cadets are melted down and then used to make new rings.

The list of names of donated rings are given to the new grads at a formal “ring melt” ceremony.

Perry said she will contact West Point to see if the found ring can be used for the Army tradition. That way her father’s memory will live on — for the second time.

Lansing State Journal


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