Diedrich, 82, now has his class of 1949 ring from J. Sterling Morton High School in Cicero thanks to a Waukesha, Wis., man who returned it to him after finding it with a metal detector in a lake near his home.
The ring's journey back to its proper owner in Illinois began with Mike Geiger's phone call earlier this month to the Mattoon home of Dick Diedrich and his wife of 60 years, Doris.
"He said, 'I think I have something that goes back to your high school years," Dick Diedrich said. "At that point the story with the ring popped into my head."
It seems that back in high school, Diedrich exchanged rings with his then-sweetheart, Doris. He said she only took his ring off "when they were dissecting frogs" in biology class.
In mid-1948, Doris put it on a shelf to wash her hands after biology class and when she turned around the ring was gone, as was another girl in the washroom.
"She was quite confident it got stolen," Diedrich told The Associated Press.
That's how things stood until Geiger called. He explained to Diedrich that he was using a metal detector at a lake near his home when he discovered the ring and pulled it from the water. "It really was in excellent shape for being so old," said Diedrich.
Gieger did a little detective work, Diedrich explained. He contacted the school's alumni association and was told that out of the 1949 class of about 1,500 students, there were two graduates with the initials R.D., including Richard "Dick" Deidrich.
Geiger called the other R.D., but he wasn't very friendly, so he called Diedrich, the newspaper reported. Believing he had the right R.D., he mailed Diedrich the ring.
Diedrich said he wanted to send Geiger a reward, "but he said he was just pleased to be able to return it." He sent him one anyway, along with a nice letter.
Deidrich has continued to do research to make sure that the ring is, in fact, his. But he said Geiger is convinced the ring is in the hands of the rightful owner.
"'It's your ring' he told me. 'Keep it and enjoy it,'" Diedrich said. "So the bottom line is, I'm now sitting here at 82 years old with my class ring 63 years later."