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‘I thought it was gone forever,’ Old Central Preston school ring reunited with owner, 33 years later

Photo by Theresa Marthey Marcus Humphrey, 16, left, and Franklin Moats, 18, returned Jay Layton's 1982 Central Preston Senior High School class ring
Photo by Theresa Marthey
Marcus Humphrey, 16, left, and Franklin Moats, 18, returned Jay Layton’s 1982 Central Preston Senior High School class ring


By Theresa Marthey
Preston County News & Journal

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — In 1982, Jay Layton was a junior in a Building Construction One class at Central Preston Senior High School. He was laying a footer for the slaughterhouse at the vocational school — now a part of the Preston High campus — when his high school ring slipped out of his shirt pocket and wasn’t seen again.

That is until last Friday, when two students in a construction class at Preston High found Layton’s 33-year-old keepsake buried under mud and old concrete.

Marcus Humphrey, 16, and Franklin Moats, 18, said they were digging around the footer, pulling-up old masonry blocks while preparing a new footer to expand the school’s slaughterhouse.

“When we came in on Monday, after it rained during the weekend, we saw something shiny and picked it up,” Humphrey said. “We were able to wash the ring off and saw the name Jay Layton engraved on the inside.”

Moats went to Preston High teacher Paul Martin and asked him if he knew who Jay Layton was.

“I immediately thought it had to be the Jay Layton I knew,” Martin said. “I contacted Jay on Monday night to see if he had lost his class ring, and he said he had years ago, but it was long gone.”

Martin said he spoke a little longer to Layton, telling him about the students finding the ring at the slaughter house and wanting to return it.

“I knew the minute he said ‘slaughter house’ it was my ring,” Layton said.

When Humphrey and Moats presented him with the ring on Wednesday, Layton could only say, “Wow! I really never thought I would see this again.”

The ring was in near perfect condition, shiny as if it had never been worn, with just a small bit of dirt on the side with a basketball player.

Humphrey and Moats were happy to return the ring to the rightful owner.

“If I lost my ring and someone found it, I hope they would return it to me,” Humphrey said. “It was the right thing to do.”

“It looks perfect,” Layton said. “Doesn’t fit on my ring finger anymore, but it fits my pinky finger.”

While visiting the slaughter house and seeing where the students found his ring, Layton vividly recalled the day he lost the ring.

“It was a Thursday, and we were putting tar on the block,” Layton said. “I put my class ring in the pocket of my flannel shirt and buttoned it in.”

“I hadn’t had it very long, and I never thought about it the rest of the day,” Layton continued. “Then I was going to Franklin to fish with my uncle and remembered the ring. I went into my pocket, and it was gone.”

Layton said there weren’t any cellphones then, and he couldn’t call anyone to tell them to look for it the next day. And he especially couldn’t tell anyone because he wasn’t going to school that Friday because of going fishing, and he thought it was gone forever.

“It is nice that the ring has come full circle in a way,” Layton said. “I was working on the slaughter house when I lost it. Now these students are working to expand the same building, and they found a ring that I thought it was gone forever.”

The Preston High class is preparing the building to have an additional freezer installed.

“Every time someone talked about the slaughter house, the first thing that would come into my mind was ‘I had a part in building that,’” Layton said. “And the second was, ‘My class ring is somewhere in that foundation.’

“I never told my parents I had lost it,” Layton said laughing. “I don’t know if they knew, but didn’t ask.”

The ring is now back with its owner, and Layton has plans for it.

“I am going to give it to my grandchildren,” Layton said. “There is a story behind this to treasure.”

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