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Tom Kalpin never talked about his 1944 class ring, the one he lost at a beach in Canada shortly after his graduation from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Gone and lost forever is probably what the young Tonawanda man, fresh out of school and headed for the war, thought at the time.
Nearly 70 years later, Kalpin is gone; he died in 1991. But the thick gold band with the red stone and the initials "TGK" engraved inside found its way home last week and into the hands of the three daughters he left behind.
"It's pretty wild," Elmer Covelli said of the story behind the ring. "I'm just glad we found a home for it."
Covelli should know. He's the one who found the ring in the late 1950s or early 1960s and spent decades wondering to whom it belonged.
His search ended last week when he and Kalpin's daughters gathered at the All Heroes Memorial in Tonawanda's Niawanda Park, just blocks from where Kalpin grew up.
When Covelli handed over the ring, the three women hovered over it, staring at it and listening as the Eggertsville man told them the tale of his 50-year search for their father.
"To me, the story is more about his journey than ours," Janet Curry, one of Kalpin's daughters, said of Covelli. "He could have sold it. He could have just trashed it. But he didn't."
It was so long ago, Covelli can't remember the exact year or beach he was at when he found the ring buried in the sand. He thinks it was Sherkston or Wyldewood, but again, it was a long, long time ago, too long to remember.
"I took it home and just threw it in a box with some other jewelry," Covelli said. "About six or seven months ago, I was looking for something in the box, found the ring and thought, 'You know, a family would probably like this back.'?"
He also realized that with the help of the Internet, a tool he didn't have 50 years ago, he might finally be able to track down the owner.
"My son was good enough to jump on board," Covelli said. "He has a friend at the Pentagon, and they began networking it and, wham bam, came up with the name."
Thomas G. Kalpin.
OK, but who is he? And even more important, how do we find him? Covelli wondered.
A quick Google search led them to a name, address and phone number in North Tonawanda and Kalpin's former wife, Elaine.
"I kind of blindsided her," Covelli said, "but I had nowhere else to go."
Elaine Kalpin admits she was shocked by the phone call and the news of a ring she never knew existed.
She now thinks she knows how her former husband, an avid swimmer, lost what she assumes was one of his most beloved personal possessions.
"I'm sure he was very proud of it and that's probably why he wore it to the beach," Elaine Kalpin said. "He took great pride in being part of the Merchant Marines."
Not surprisingly, Elaine Kalpin's first reaction, after getting off the phone with Covelli, was to alert her daughters to the big news.
"My mother called and said, 'I have a story for you,'" said Curry. "And when I heard it, I cried."
Perhaps even more amazing than the story behind the ring is the fact that it looks new, even now, 68 years after Kalpin left the academy and after at least 10 years buried in the sand before Covelli found it.
"I didn't know anything about it," said Kathy Davis, one of his daughters. "He never talked about it. My mother didn't even know about it."
For Davis and her sisters, the ring is more than a long-lost heirloom; it's one of the few material remembrances they have of a father they lost more than 20 years ago.
"Happiness, just happiness," said Karen Vollmer, another daughter, when asked how she felt upon hearing about the ring. "He didn't have a lot of possessions, especially from his youth."
All three women suspect that the ring, like World War II, was something their father didn't want to talk about.
Kalpin spent much of his military service in the Pacific and, even though he was in the Merchant Marines, he saw more than his share of the war.
"We never really talked about what he did during the war," said Curry. "But I do remember him saying they were in great danger."
After the war, their father returned home and went on to the University of Buffalo, where he received a degree in mechanical engineering.
Curry thinks one of his greatest legacies is the grandchildren - five of nine - who followed suit and went to school for engineering.
But that's different.
In the ring that finally came home, she and her sisters have something concrete, something they can hold in their hands, that reminds them of the father, who like thousands of other fathers went off to war, came home and never wanted to talk about it.

email: pfairbanks@buffnews.com