Friday, July 10, 2020

Graduating Amid a Pandemic













Grandview High School Class of 2020 Recognized


By Mary K. King

On March 12, 2020, the senior class of Grandview High School went home for spring break. This would be the last time they saw each other until graduation, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of school buildings and districts across the country implemented distance learning. Despite various challenges, the Grandview School District hosted a graduation ceremony, drive-through style, for the class of 2020 on Monday, June 29.

Following the ceremony, the district put together a video featuring the traditional speeches typically heard at graduation. Principal Dr. Jennifer Price, retiring this school year, stated that if the graduates surround themselves with people who make them happy, who push them and challenge them, they will be a force to change the world. This theme of change and of overcoming adversity was a common thread in all of the graduation speeches.

“I know this is not the graduation ceremony that you envisioned when you started your senior year 10 months ago, or even when you started your last semester in January,” said Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez. “I know that you’ve been dreaming about this moment and, at no time, dreamt that this would be how it would play out. I believe that you have an amazing opportunity - a calling, if you will - to go forth from this moment and create a future with more purpose, vision, energy and hope than those who came before you.”

Rodrequez went on to say that this is the point where he typically tells the graduating class some words of wisdom, and shares what they can expect to see in the future. However, he said, this time he doesn’t know those answers.

“We tend to speak to you as if we somehow have it figured out,” he said. “We don’t really know what’s going to happen next. We don’t know how things will improve or how the world will be different when we get to the other side of this pandemic. We don’t know how the country will change based upon the protests related to the social injustice that we’ve witnessed these past weeks. We don’t know if systemic inequities are going to continue to exist in our society or if they will finally be addressed.

“What I do know is that everything happens for a reason,” Rodrequez added. “You are a chosen class. It might not feel that way to you now, but you have been chosen for a reason. You can think of all this as a negative, or you can change your mindset and realize that you have an opportunity - an opportunity to seize your future and the future of this country. You have more power now than you can possibly imagine.”

Rodrequez challenged the class of 2020 to put more love than hate out into the world, and to rise above the tasks of the last several months.

“You are bulldogs and you can build the future that you want to see,” he said. “The fight to build that future will not be easy, but it will be worth it.”

Class Salutatorian Kiyah Neely said that she feels her class was robbed of their senior year due to the pandemic. Despite that, however, she said that her class had amazing school spirit, and the ability of her peers to come together for the good of the whole has been a quality she has admired.

“It cannot take away the fact that we made it,” said Neely. “Most of us have been surrounded by the same people for years, and it is truly amazing watching people grow and become who they’re meant to be.

Jason Keleher, class valedictorian, assured his classmates that the lack of a traditional graduation ceremony does not reflect that the class of 2020 put in any less effort than other classes.

“I choose to perceive this strange opportunity as a unique send-off point for a uniquely talented generation,” said Keleher. “Walking through our high school halls as a freshman, I could tell there was something special about the class of 2020, aside from all the puns about us having 2020 vision. We tried harder and aimed further than the classes that came before us, never settling for mediocrity.

“In this ever-changing world of division and isolation we graduates are about to enter into, those aspirations are desperately needed,” Keleher added. “We need the loud, clear voices of this generation to be vocal about injustice, truth and hope. We must challenge apathy wherever it appears and instead promote compassion. And we must be agents of positive change, even if it means abandoning the safety and comfort of the past.”

Though the future may be uncertain for the graduates, class president Jadyn Brooks said that she believes her class will be the one to shake up the world.

“We are the class of 2020,” said Brooks, “and we have a perfect vision moving forward.”

Thursday, July 2, 2020

South KC Sees Surge of Violence in 2020


KCPD Deputy Chief Karl Oakman discusses violent crime statistics in Kansas City during a town hall conversation, led by Center Planning's Stacey Johnson-Cosby. 

Tracking to be Deadliest Year on Record

by Mary K. King

Violent crime is on the rise in South Kansas City with the community seeing 13 murders in 2020. Compared to none at this time in 2019, some area activists are asking what local law enforcement is doing and what the community can do to keep their neighborhoods safe.

On Saturday, June 27, the Center Planning and Development Council, Hickman Mills United Neighborhoods and the Southern Communities Coalition teamed up to host an in-person and virtual town hall meeting to discuss crime and safety in South Kansas City. The discussion, led by Center Planning’s Vice President Stacey Johnson-Cosby, included representatives from the Kansas City Police Department, the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, and COMBAT, with Mayor of Kansas City Quinton Lucas, and Jackson County Sheriff Daryl Forte.

“I was absolutely floored and shocked and had no idea,” said Johnson-Cosby. “I knew if I was shocked, some of my neighbors and peers were also shocked. So, I thought, let’s find out what’s going on, not only in our community in South Kansas City, but also statewide. I think the trends are the same.”

Johnson-Cosby set out to find information on where the violence is stemming from, who the victims are in these cases, and what steps are being taken as a city to solve the problem. Most importantly, she said, is finding out what the neighborhoods can do to create a positive impact in their communities going forward to help reduce violent crime.

“South Kansas City is not unique in terms of having an increase in violent crime activity including shootings and homicides,” said Mayor Lucas. “It is not a trend that is unique to Kansas City, either, as compared to other American cities. But that doesn’t mean in any way that this is acceptable for us.”

The City of Kansas City received grants from the Department of Justice earlier this year related to community policing. Lucas said the hope is to use those funds to increase policing both with additional officers in the department and to expand the community policing program throughout the city. He indicated that the city is facing budget challenges due to COVID-19.

“In a year where two to three months ago we talked about a $10 million increase in the Kansas City Police Department, now a few months later there’s conversation of a $10 million decrease. So, we’d be very flat,” said Lucas. “The challenge with that, of course, is how do you deliver services to the people of Kansas City? How do we make sure that things like the response times and some of the other community efforts that are very important can continue to be those that we support?”

The mayor also indicated that the inability to have in-person programming due to COVID-19, specifically for teens, has been a challenge. Keeping young people of Kansas City involved and active over the summer to help prevent the congregations in parks and public places has proven to be effective in years past. Swope Park has seen a high number of shootings already this year, and a lot of the other criminal activity has occurred in parks, parking lots and open spaces, according to Lucas.

“We know where the challenge is, but in some ways it’s kind of the idle hands of the youth that has created a challenge for us,” said Lucas.

He added that his office is making sure that efforts are increased with South Patrol to provide for continued collaboration with community organizations, the school districts, and neighborhoods to ensure that safety remains a top priority. He stated that leveraging those programs that already exist in the city, such as the No Violence Alliance (NoVA), and working with those programs is essential.

“Everyone at city hall and on the Board of Police Commissioners is mindful of the real challenges we have,” Lucas said. “Every crime, and every issue, is creating grave concerns for all of us.”

According to Mike Mansur with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, Kansas City has seen over 90 homicides since January 1. This puts the city on pace to see around 175 this year. 2017 was considered to be the all-time high with 151 homicides. The prosecutor has recently initiated the Crime Strategy Unit, which is becoming popular throughout the country, and uses police intelligence to help identify crime spots and trends.

“We also will supplement and make better the most important cases with that unit,” said Mansur. “They might be involved in special efforts with evidence in particular cases.”

South Patrol Commander Major Daniel Gates said his team of officers covers roughly 74 square miles in Kansas City with approximately 69,000 residents, and averages around 39,000 calls for service annually in the division. Currently, there are 65 officers assigned to South Patrol of all ranks.

“Just like everyone else, we’ve seen a spike across our division, across our city, and across the country of violent crimes,” said Gates. “Of the 13 homicides in South Patrol, nine have seen arrests or charges.”

Gates said five cases are of unknown reasons, five were either disagreements or arguments involving drug activity, and two were domestic-violence related homicides. One case involved two deaths. In order to help alleviate some of the violent crime issues, Gates meets weekly with South Patrol staff to gather information to ensure they have an understanding about what is occurring and agree on how to approach the situation to prevent further homicides. That information is shared with Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith and the other patrol divisions in the city.

South Patrol has two community interaction officers dedicated to the area, as well as a social worker assigned to the division. Gates said the division also has an impact squad, which assists with calls for service and works to follow-up with homicide investigations or other cases to help apprehend offenders of violent crimes.

“We do the best that we can,” said Gates. “We protect and serve. We can’t do that without your help.”

Confidentially, the public can provide information about violent or non-violent crime to the TIPS Hotline by calling 816-474-TIPS, or by texting or emailing through their website. The TIPS Hotline is separate from the police departments, and since its inception back in the 1970s, has had a 100-percent success rate with keeping tips anonymous. If tips provided lead to an arrest for a homicide, the tipster can be rewarded up to $25,000.

Sheriff Forte said that his office signed a mental health contract last week to bring the county up to national standards for those who come through the detention facility by providing services to help with crime reduction across Jackson County. Everyone will receive an evaluation upon arrival, and those who are deemed to be in need of special services will be transported out of the jail and taken to proper facilities to receive the care they need.

“This will impact crime all over the city,” said Forte. “We are looking at our entire process as a reform effort, from recruitment to retention to annual psychological profiles. Hold us accountable, from the leaders all the way down through the organization. We need to talk more, and after the talking, we need to have accountability measures to make sure that we change.”

He added that he feels the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office has been dealing with antiquated procedures and equipment. Timing, Forte said, is everything, and with the current climate with police, he said that now is the time for him to find the funding to outfit his patrolmen with body-worn cameras.

“Without trust, though, the cameras don’t mean a whole lot,” Forte said. “We have to build that trust, one relationship at a time.”

Kansas City Police Department Deputy Chief Karl Oakman said that a strong partnership is needed to address the violence issue in Kansas City.

“Over the years, I think we’ve checked ‘partnership’ off like it’s a box and we really don’t engage like we should,” said Oakman. “Everyone has responsibility and I think, moving forward, we need to hold everyone responsible for their part in this partnership.”

He said there are two key factors to addressing the homicide problem in Kansas City: enforcement and prevention. While he feels that the police department continues to succeed in the enforcement category, more efforts need to focus on violence prevention.

“We’ve put a lot of programs in place,” said Oakman. “Do we want to have 175 homicides this year and toot our horn because we solved 169 of them? I don’t think that’s progress. I don’t think we should be excited about that. What we should be looking at is doing both (enforcement and prevention).”

Oakman said he would like to see KCPD increase the solvability rate of violent crimes while also reducing the number of homicides.  There are a number of initiatives already in progress; however, due to COVID-19, a lot of those face-to-face programs have been halted this year. He would also like to have school resource officers in each high school.

“We always talk about serve and protect, but sometimes we leave out the engaging with the community part,” said Oakman.

The key thing to remember, according to Oakman, is that those who want to commit violence or destroy neighborhoods are fine doing it if they see only the police engaged or just the community engaged.

“What scares people, those who want to commit violence, is when they see the police and the community working together,” said Oakman. “Not just working together but getting along and having a common goal. That is the biggest prevention to violence in your neighborhoods: when the police work with you and the community works with the police.”

Johnson-Cosby expressed to all the speakers that, as community groups, they are engaged and willing to work with the police to help prevent future violent crimes in the southland.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Investor Looks to Purchase Former Bank Building to Build Service Station

by Mary K. King

The Grandview Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, June 9, held a public hearing for a zoning amendment for the former bank building located at 6500 Main Street. The property, which currently serves as RT’s Awards and Trophies, was purchased several years ago by Rick Thompson after the building was vacant for some time.

Jeff Teague of Teague Construction submitted the application for rezoning of the property, currently zoned OS (office services). A developer has a contract to purchase the building and land, and wishes to rezone to allow for a service station and convenience store (C-2, or general commercial, zoning).

“This property will be affected by the Frontage Road conversion from one-way to two-way traffic, of which the city is currently in the engineering and design phases,” said City Planner Dave McCumber.  “The west side of the property and the property line will be shifted slightly.”

The current OS zoning is directly adjacent to C-2 zoning, which McCumber says will need to be changed in order to get approval for building a gas station. With the existing C-2 zoning next to the property, he said it would be easy to extend that west into the property in question.  McCumber added that the city’s planning commission voted unanimously in favor of the zoning map amendment for the property.

“I had a client who came to me looking for a site that had C-2 zoning and he wanted to locate in Grandview,” said Teague. “Right now, the purpose is to build a convenience store. Obviously, there’s a long way to go on getting to everything if this gets approved, but there’s a possibility they may not build a convenience store, too. It could end up being a small commercial building or retail building.”

Teague said that the chance is greater that the property buyer, Bibir Sultan, will build a convenience store at the location, especially considering the new access road, once completed, will cut right through the property.

“If the road wasn’t going to go through there, and there wasn’t going to be increased traffic, my client would not have requested the rezoning,” said Teague. “He wouldn’t even be interested in this piece of property. We really felt like this was appropriate for the city.”

RT’s has been located at the building for years, Teague said, and it needs substantial work. The building is aging and has foundation problems that would be expensive to repair.

“Our intention, no matter what, is to tear that building down,” said Teague. “Any time you take an old building and build something new, and up to current standards, it is a good thing.”

Alderman John Maloney questioned whether or not Teague’s client has looked into purchasing the closed gas station located on the northeast corner of Blue Ridge and Grandview Road. Teague indicated that he believes that gas station will eventually reopen.

The Board of Aldermen will make the decision on the rezoning of 6500 Main Street at a future meeting.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Community Input Received for the Outer Road Conversion Project

by Mary K. King




A virtual public meeting was held to discuss the future of the Outer Road conversion project in Grandview, taking the current one-way roads to two-way. On Thursday, May 28, Grandview’s Public Works Director Dennis Randolph, along with designers and contractors for the project, met with community members via Zoom conferencing to garner feedback and answer questions regarding the conversion.

“Folks have been waiting a long time to get to this point, and the year has been strange and getting here has been a bit of a task,” said Randolph.

The project first began in 1980, when the frontage roads along then US-71 were converted to one-way traffic. Randolph stated that the conversion to one-way caused problems for the city, including travel and business economics.

“Customers had a hard time going in circles around and around,” said Randolph. “I wasn’t here, but I know Mayor Jones (and others) have seen what those one-way frontage roads did. For many years, they caused some real economic problems for the city.”

For the last decade of his employment with Grandview, Randolph has been working to develop a plan to convert the roads back to two-way. Around seven years ago, Grandview and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) came to an agreement on the scope of the project; however, the City of Grandview had to find the money to complete the job.

“That’s taken quite a bit of work. In the end, we had to come up with about $12 million of funds outside of the city’s coffers with the city contributing about $3 million,” said Randolph. “So, this is a $15 million project that we’re working on.”

The funding now in place, including a large part from federal aid. With those federal dollars, the city is required to follow specific rules. Before authorization is approved for the final design, construction, or purchase of right-of-way, a public meeting needed to be held.

“This is to let you know what the process is,” said Randolph. “We’re hoping that after the meeting is done, and we get all the questions answered and all the documentation together, Missouri Department of Transportation will give us authorization to proceed.”

The project runs from Harry Truman Drive on the northern end to just north of M-150 Highway to the south. Some prior approval had already been granted by MoDOT, and for the last year, Grandview has been completing some property acquisition along the northern end of the project route.

“I think the other special part of this project, besides correcting that economic development problem for the city, is that we’re going to use a process called design-build, which is a project delivery method to get this project done,” said Randolph. “What that really means is, instead of having a separate design done by an engineering design firm and then bidding the project to a construction firm, we’re going to select, based on qualifications, a design-build team.”

The design-build team will consist of a partnership between design engineers, a builder, and other contractors used to complete the project. That selection process has already started, and the city is currently working on narrowing the field from three firms.

The City of Grandview and MoDOT have already completed some preliminary design work for the conversion project. Those plans, according to Randolph, are about 30 percent finished. The rest of the design will be completed by the design-build team, which will be selected later this summer or early fall.

“The two-way traffic will allow folks who live in Grandview to circulate a lot better, and not to have to go out of their way to get from one side of our city to the other,” said Randolph.
If the project goes according to plan, final design for the conversion will be completed in 2021, with construction taking place and being finished by the middle of 2022.

A video of the virtual public meeting is available on the city’s website at www.grandview.org, under Public Works Projects. Public comments for the I-49 Outer Road conversion are being accepted through Friday, June 5. Those interested in providing feedback can email Randolph at drandolph@grandview.org.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Grandview Student Receives $50,000 Surprise



by Mary Wilson

At a time when communities are searching for some good news, just that came to a Grandview High School junior in the form of a celebration on Friday, May 1.

Grandview High School junior Jarri Brooks dreams of going to college and becoming a certified public accountant. On Friday, that dream became one step closer to reality when Brooks discovered he is one of 1,169 KC Scholar scholarship recipients across the metro.

“It feels like it’s my birthday, and it’s not my birthday,” said a surprised Brooks as he met representatives from KC Scholars and local media on the front lawn of his apartment building in Grandview.

KC Scholars announced on Friday their college scholarships for low and modest-income students across a six-county area of the Kansas City region. The awards provide financial assistance, college advisement, and college planning and persistence support for students who have the greatest need and who may otherwise be unable to complete a postsecondary degree. This year, students from 95 public, private, public charter, and home-based high schools applied for the scholarship.

Brooks, along with six other Grandview High School students, will receive a $10,000 scholarship upon entering college his freshman year, renewable up to four additional years. Along with the scholarship announcement at his home, Brooks was greeted by a parade of cars, with representation from area colleges and universities like Metropolitan Community Colleges, UMKC, Mizzou, Donnelly College and many more. A few teachers and administrators from Grandview also attended the parade.

“Jarri is an outstanding young man. Not just athletically or academically, but he is a great citizen as well,” said Grandview High School Assistant Principal Brian Rudolph, who drove through Brooks’ parade a couple of times. “He is always kind and has an outstanding personality. He will be a fantastic representative for KC Scholars.”

“KC Scholars stands for hope and opportunity – something our collective soul yearns for at this time,” said Beth Tankersley-Bankhead, president and CEO of KC Scholars. “The impact will live on for generations to come and will enrich our regional community. KC Scholars opens doors of opportunity for our scholars, and for their families, and ensures fair and equitable access to education and employment. With the support of this program, this region’s students can fulfill their dreams.”

Other Grandview students receiving the $50,000 scholarship are: Sarah Bensahri, Ollie Coleman, Tristyn Little, Tenisha Perkins, Sasha Sandoval-Williams and Guadalupe Santillanes.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Fire Marshal Retires

by Mary Wilson

If you have attended any community events in Grandview over the past several years, chances are you’ve met Fire Marshal Lew Austin. With his friendly smile and his Jersey accent, Austin quickly became a pillar of the Grandview Fire Department since he was hired in early 2014. Knowing no strangers, he began work immediately and, though the task would have been a challenge to most, he did it all with a genuine love for his job.

“I’ve been in the fire marshal position, and I’ve now worked with two other fire marshals besides Lew, and I can truly say he is absolutely the best fire marshal I’ve ever been around,” said Grandview Fire Chief Ron Graham. “He is so committed. It’s one thing to be knowledgeable and have skill and know the fire code and things, but when it comes to his commitment and wanting to make sure that builders or businesspeople have the right advice, Lew is the best.”

Graham said that Austin doesn’t “shoot from the hip,” instead offering assistance to business owners to work with them to correct any issues he may come across. He is also known for being willing to come up with a plan to help businesses when it comes to operating within codes.

“A lot of fire marshals aren’t like that,” said Graham. “Lew understands, and it’s not that we’re just such a small town. I think he’d be the same in a big town. That’s just his style, and it’s the correct style.”

When he was hired, Austin had his work cut out for him. Graham said there was a lot to be done to get the department’s program back on track.

“There was kind of an unwritten word out there that Grandview’s not going to check you,” said Graham. “Lew’s changed that. He’s taken some heat on it, but he would just apologize and then work with people and give them some time. Many times, he had to take a deep breath and just say, ‘I’m sorry. Yes, this should have been enforced years ago, but it is a requirement and I’m going to work with you.’ I really respect Lew for that.”

Graham added that Austin has a clear passion for his work. It wasn’t unheard of for him to take work home with him over the weekends, not wanting to hold up any permits or plans.
“Lew always made sure the work got done,” said Graham. “One thing we tease him for is sometimes that New Jersey attitude will come out. And, while we tease him about it, it’s probably what helped make him so successful.”

Several schools in Grandview were not meeting the fire codes, with violations, according to Graham. At no fault to the district, they just simply weren’t informed. Austin inspected all the schools and compiled a long list of fire hazards and other violations.

“It was embarrassing, really, on our part,” said Graham. “It shouldn’t have been like that.”
Knowing that the district would likely be spending quite a bit on some of the upgrades to bring the buildings to code, including a new fire alarm system, Austin helped Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez come up with a plan to implement the changes over a period of time, rather than having the big expense at once. 

From working with the district, Austin saw a need for further collaboration, and developed the Fire Prevention Week poster contest, where students from across the district submitted artwork annually depicting the theme of the year. Winning posters were selected from each building, and those artists received a ride to school on a fire truck and were recognized by the City of Grandview. Austin also serves on the district’s safety committee.

“From the moment that he arrived in Grandview, he had a desire to work with the school system in other ways than just his role as fire marshal,” said Rodrequez. “He has a heart for safety, for education, and for collaboration that will be sorely missed. We are a better and safer community because of the tremendous work that he did.”

“He’s just been the glue to hold everything together,” said Graham. “He took a program that was weak and, dare to say, it’s one of the strongest in the metro area.”

Austin’s last day with the City of Grandview is Friday, April 24. However, his impact and legacy will last long after he retires to Nevada, where he will join his wife who has been working at a hospital there since January.

Austin has laid the groundwork for his predecessor, Rodney Baldwin, who has been training with the fire marshal for the last two years, and was appointed to the position on Friday, April 17.
“It’s going to be a seamless transition,” said Graham. “We will miss Lew, but to his credit, Lew prepared Rodney.”

Graham said that the department, and Baldwin, will continue the work that Austin has started, including the Fire Prevention poster contest. Baldwin is also passionate about serving the community, having started the Lunch Buddies program with the district a few years ago.

“While we have his position filled, we will never replace what Lew brought to Grandview,” said Graham. “We’re going to be okay, thanks to him. He’s going to be missed.”

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Ruskin Eagle Returns Home After Fifty-year Flight



by Mary Wilson

Nearly five decades ago, Karen Sue Jochim walked the halls of Ruskin High School, proudly displaying her class ring on her hand. Gold in color, her ring symbolized her Eagle heritage, complete with the mascot nestled beneath the bright blue center stone. Her initials, KSJ, were engraved along the inside of the ring, and it was a piece of her high school career she truly loved.

Jochim, who graduated high school in 1971, later became Karen Schwartz, and now lives in Raymore, not far from her Ruskin roots. Sometime in the mid-1970s, Schwartz said she lost her beloved class ring.

“The ring has been lost longer than I ever had it,” said Schwartz. “I just remember not being able to find it. I always kept it in my jewelry box and, I’m thinking somewhere between 1972 to 1976, that it was gone.”

She still has a small pendant that she also received around the same time frame while in high school, but the ring has been gone for nearly fifty years. Until last week, Schwartz hadn’t thought about the ring in quite some time. However, on Thursday, April 9, she started receiving messages on Facebook from old friends who thought maybe someone had found her class ring.

Becky Barbour, who by miracle or coincidence happens to be a 1997 graduate of Ruskin rival Hickman Mills High School, works at the Oakhill Day School in Garland, Texas. A fellow teacher’s child was playing on the playground at the school and announced that he had found a ring.

“He said, ‘Oh, it has a jewel in it,’” said Barbour. “He brought it to me, and was muddy, so I could tell wherever he found it that it had been there in some mud for a little bit. I kind of wiped it off, and when I wiped around the jewel or the stone, I saw it said Ruskin High School.”

Being from Hickman Mills, Barbour immediately thought that she knew this ring was from her hometown. Though not being from Texas originally, she quickly searched to ensure there wasn’t a Ruskin High School somewhere near Garland. To see if she could track down the owner, she posted some photos along with a description of where the ring was found, and the initials engraved on the inside, to a Hickman Mills alum Facebook page.

“I wanted to try to see if I could find who it belongs to, and if not, then I’d give it back to the little boy who found it because he was so excited about it,” said Barbour. “What are the odds that I would know where that school was, first of all, and it was found at my school down here in Texas. I was just really taken aback to even find something that old on our playground, but I was excited because I wanted to be able to return this ring.”

Within four hours of her post, friends contacted Schwartz, saying that the ring had to be hers due to the initials KSJ on the inside. Sure enough, it was her ring.

“I loved that ring,” said Schwartz. “I always thought it was so pretty because it had the eagle underneath the stone and I’m curious to see if that is still intact. It’s just the most bizarre thing. I don’t know how in the world it ended up in Texas.”

Schwartz said that her brother seemed to think maybe the ring was lost on a family trip to Wichita Falls. However, she debunked that theory, remembering that they took that trip to see cousins while she was still in high school, before she even had the ring in the first place.

“I would have only been like 16 at that time, and I wouldn’t have had it then,” said Schwartz. “The other times I’ve been to Texas have been within the last few years, well after the ring disappeared.

“It’s just the darnedest thing,” she added. “I’m excited to get the ring back. Who would have thought I’d see it 50 years later? I wish it could tell me a story, because, holy cow, to end up in Texas from Kansas City.”

What a journey her ring has surely been on. By the time this story is printed, the eagle has likely landed back in Missouri, and is heading home to Schwartz, where it belongs.