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Irene, and a little boy, return missing ring to family of rightful owner

Hurricane Irene (2011)Google Inc.CancerJohns Hopkins University

A little boy finds a ring lost at least 14 years ago, and a daughter now feels she is no longer alone.

And some feel it's all thanks to Irene.

"Something good came out of the hurricane," Mary Claire Mari said. "This is the rainbow."

Mari has been babysitting the three children of Towson residents Francie and Will Ozonoff since the youngsters were born. She is also their aunt. They call her "Moo."

One of the three is Peter Ozonoff, 4, a digger and collector, she said.

Mari, a Monkton resident, likes to tease her sister about Peter and his 9-year-old brother, Tommy, and 11-year-old sister, Lucy.

"You may have birthed them but I raised 'em," she likes to say.

In the common green behind his home, Peter uses his a shovel or his hands to unearth bottle caps, stones, acorns, slugs and earthworms or "euwees" as he has dubbed them, Mari said. That's when he isn't catching and examining butterflies, spiders, caterpillars and assorted flies.

Peter, who attends Redeemer Parish Day School five days a week, calls them his "treasures."

The heavy rains from Hurricane Irene muddied up the green, and since schools were closed on Tuesday, Sept. 6, Peter was digging around when something bright caught his eye.

It was a ring.

Peter plucked it out of the mud and brought it inside to his father, who teaches social studies at Franklin Middle School. His mother works for Care First Blue Cross Blue Shield.

After washing it off, his father discovered it was a 10-carat gold ring with a black onyx stone. It was marked Johns Hopkins University, Class of 1948. It had a fraternity symbol and inside it were the initials "R.H." and a letter difficult to decipher.

His father told him it might be worth a lot of money, but Peter, a little disappointed it wasn't a bottle cap he could add to his collection, just went outside and climbed a tree, according to Mari, who was put in charge of the investigation.

The family would try to find the ring's owner if he were still alive, or at least return it to his family.

Mari contacted Hopkins and found out the fraternity was Delta Upsilon which, unfortunately, left the campus in the early 1990s, according to Hopkins Greek Life and Orientation director Robert Turning, who said, "They left for dwindling membership and poor behavior."

But his suggestion to contact the international office of the fraternity proved fruitless because of what appeared to be a missing initial.

Stephen Walsh of the JHU alumni office and Pat Conklin, senior associate director of alumni relations, also tried to help.

"It was intriguing," Conklin said.

Several people ended up looking at the photograph they'd been emailed, and poured over yearbooks looking for possibilities.

Once they had narrowed it down, Conklin visited the Ozonoffs with a 1948 yearbook to see the ring just to make sure. That's when she knew it belonged to a "Richard Edmond Harman."

Through Google, she found out he had died in 1988.

But he still had a daughter living in the area.

Circle unbroken

When Pattie Harman McLane answered the telephone last Friday afternoon and found out her dad's ring had been found, she began to cry.

Recent years have been an emotional roller coaster for McLane, who works for the Towson Chamber of Commerce and lived in Gaywood for 31 years before she remarried and built a house on the waterfront in Bowleys Quarters.

Her husband died from cancer, her son's first child was born, her daughter married and is living in New York, and she buried her mother in August after a long illness.

The ring was a sign, she said.

"It was a blessing. My parents are together now, and they want me to know I'm not alone," she said.

Her father had been vice president of advertising for the C&P Telephone Co., she said. She grew up in Homeland.

He didn't wear jewelry, she said, but he did wear his college ring.

"My father was the coolest, most awesome man," she said.

His family was poor, but he still got into Hopkins. After his freshman year, the war came and he enlisted. He became a captain in the ski troops of the Army's historic 10th Mountain Division and earned medals, but he would never talk about it.

He eventually graduated from Hopkins. He was a championship lacrosse player, captain of the Hopkins team and president of his fraternity.

"My father was the quintessential lacrosse player," she said.

His lacrosse prowess didn't translate to the next generation.

"Poor Daddy had four girls," McLane said. "As soon as my son Brian was 5 years old, my father took him over. 'OK,' he told him, 'you're going to learn to play lacrosse.' "

Brian did go on to play championship lacrosse. When his grandfather died from a brain tumor, his grandmother gave him the JHU ring.

"I remember he cherished it," McLane said.

She recalled the day that Brian, about age 20, came back from playing lacrosse on the green in tears.

"Ma," he told her, "I lost Pop's ring. It flew off my finger."

It remained lost, though they searched for it. "Pop knows how much you loved his ring," she later told him.

She has talked to Mari several times since she learned that Peter found the ring.

"Talk about coincidences. Mary Claire's father was Fred Eisenbrandt, a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame who played for Duke, and we're sure they played each other," she said, "and we think they had friends in common.

She plans to meet with Peter this week to thank him, she said.

Considering McLane's mother just died, "the timing is unbelievable for this little boy to find this ring," she said.

"I know mom and dad have hooked up and are looking out for me," McLane said. "They're probably saying, 'Wow.' "

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Hurricane Irene (2011)Google Inc.CancerJohns Hopkins University
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