Gaffney woman loses college ring, stranger returns it 40 years later


GAFFNEY, S.C. (WSPA) – More than 40 years ago, a Gaffney woman lost her college ring; but this week – thanks to a kind stranger – she finally got it back.

“I was in the 6th grade when I decided that that’s where I wanted to go to school,” Mary Stratton said.

Mary Stratton graduated from Winthrop University back when it was Winthrop College in 1976, and she even worked there for a few years after.

“I just fell in love with it, I fell in love with the campus,” she said. “It just felt like a good place to be.”

It was back before the school was fully co-ed.

“We could run around with curlers in our hair and it didn’t matter,” Stratton said.

And it was back before the school chose the eagle as their official mascot.

“I guess that’s me- I’m a wildcat,” she said.

Stratton said she is proud to be a Winthrop Wildcat and that’s why she was devastated when she lost her college ring.

But, a few days ago, she got a phone call she never thought she’d get.

“She said, ‘Well, I have your ring and I’d like to return it to you,'” Stratton said.

A woman named Sandra Cunningham–who used to run a store near the college’s campus–found Stratton’s old prized possession.

“I shopped there many times,” Stratton said. “In fact, one of the best pair of pants I bought in there was a pair of brown corduroy bell-bottoms.”

Cunningham found the ring while unpacking boxes in Washington, D.C.

“I was like, ‘Wow, this doesn’t happen to me! This happens to people you read about,” Stratton said.

The ring had apparently traveled quite a bit as Cunningham said she’d moved to six different states since closing the store.

“That’s been riding around for years in so many different places,” Stratton said.

Cunningham mailed the ring to Stratton who said it felt like Christmas when she slipped it back onto her finger for the first time in more than 40 years.

“It brought back so many memories of how proud I was when I got that ring and so many good times I had at Winthrop.”

Stratton told 7 News she is forever grateful to her new friend.

“I definitely believe in angels and she’s now one of mine,” she said.

Stratton and Cunningham plan to keep in touch, and Stratton said she plans to pay it forward.

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