Lost Vietnam War veteran’s ring returned to owner - Republic-Times | News

Lost Vietnam War veteran’s ring returned to owner

By on August 18, 2012 at 5:37 pm

By COREY SAATHOFF and ANDREA DEGENHART

For the Republic-Times

Eugene Lamar Koehler and his wife, Elaine, were on hand Tuesday morning at Waterloo City Hall to reclaim the Vietnam War veteran’s ring he lost four years ago and thank the man who found it.

“Sorry it took four years,” Bryan Jost said to Koehler as he handed him the ring. “I took good care of it.”

Eugene, 64, and his wife, who live between Paderborn and Hecker, had both worked the night shift stocking shelves at the Waterloo Walmart. In 2008, as he recovered from a broken neck, Eugene tagged along with Elaine while she reported to work. But he started to feel something was wrong. Elaine clocked out and rushed him to the hospital, where doctors determined he was suffering a stroke.

He figures he dropped the ring during the medical situation.

“We didn’t know it was gone until later,” Eugene said.

Eugene served two tours in Vietnam between 1967 and 1970, the first time with the Army’s 4th Infantry, the second as part of an artillery regiment. He said he had always worn the ring on special occasions as a proud symbol of his military service. Figuring his old ring was lost, he purchased a new ring. But it just couldn’t replace the sentimental value of the original.

“That’s the beauty,” he said, looking at the original ring as it lay on the table before him.

Not long after Eugene lost his ring, Jost spotted something out of place in the mulch of the median he parked next to in the Walmart lot.

“As soon as I opened the door, it was right there in front of me,” Jost said. “I almost stepped on it.”

“We used to park there all the time,” Elaine said of the parking spot Jost was in when he spied the ring.

In the four years since he found the ring, Jost tried to find the owner by placing ads in local newspapers and the Monroe County Farm Bureau newsletter. He even looked through the phone book for names that matched the initials ELK, which are inscribed on the inside.

“I think people thought I was crazy calling them up out of the blue,” Jost said.

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, when Waterloo’s new community relations coordinator, Julie Yeager, set out on a mission to finally track down the ring’s owner once and for all. Yeager enlisted the help of the Republic-Times. The story of the ring appeared in the Eavesdropper column of the July 25 issue.

Long-time Republic-Times reader Marilyn Borkowski, who was married to Eugene’s brother and is still considered a sister-in-law to the couple, read the mention in the paper and immediately called R-T general manager Kermit Constantine.

“I was sitting there reading the paper and immediately knew it had to be his,” she said. “It made my day.”

Borkowski was put in touch with Jost, and Tuesday’s meeting was arranged to return the ring to its rightful owner. Eugene credited his sister-in-law’s diligence in making sure he got his ring back.

“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for her,” he said.

Jost, too, couldn’t have been more pleased with the outcome.

“I’m really happy I finally found the owner,” he said. “It’s been four years.”

Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.