BACKUS, Minn. — Lakes Area Dive Team Member Joe Carlson was on a mission to help look for possible Aquatic Invasive Species in Lake Ada east of Backus, Minnesota, on Sept. 15 when he saw something shiny underwater near the access there.

"I wasn't swimming too far from the landing which is a spot I look pretty closely at for invasive species," Carlson said. "I saw something out of the corner of my eye and I went over and looked and it was sitting right on top of a rock."


"I recall not wanting to even mention buying another one. I grew up in a family of 11 kids, so I knew buying a second ring for me would have been unreasonable."

— Carla Headlee


The ring had been on the bottom of the lake for some time and had some build up from its time underwater, but it still had many clear, identifying features. It was a 10 karat 1972 Pequot Lakes High School ring with a blue gem. On one side was the old Pequot Lakes logo and on the other side were symbols: An atom, a pair of winged shoes, a harp and another item likely relating to the owner's academic or athletic involvement.

Carlson posted a photo of the find in Pine River/Backus Area Happenings Facebook page immediately after finding it.

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Meanwhile, in the Twin Cities, Carla Marie Headlee was browsing Facebook when she saw the post by Carlson. It was the first time she saw the ring since 1972 when she lost it.

"I had it all of three or four weeks and went swimming in Lake Ada with a friend," Headlee said. "I swam in the water and got out and realized the ring was gone. We searched until dark and we couldn't find the ring."

Once cleaned of the things that grew on it in the 49 years it's been underwater, this class ring looks pretty new.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal
Once cleaned of the things that grew on it in the 49 years it's been underwater, this class ring looks pretty new. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Headlee said she worked hard to cover half the cost of the ring, working as a server and with Echo Publishing in Pequot Lakes. Her parents helped cover the other half. Asking for help buying another was not something she had any interest in doing.

"I recall not wanting to even mention buying another one," Headlee said. "I grew up in a family of 11 kids, so I knew buying a second ring for me would have been unreasonable."

Headlee messaged Carlson and asked if it had her initials inside. As a matter of fact, Carlson had been hiding that fact so that not just anyone could claim the ring, which was engraved CMH on the inside.

"I could show pictures of the thing all the way around because on the inside there were initials," Carlson said.


"I had it all of three or four weeks and went swimming in Lake Ada with a friend. I swam in the water and got out and realized the ring was gone. We searched until dark and we couldn't find the ring."

— Carla Headlee


The response from the find has been immense; the post on Facebook has been shared more than 800 times. Carlson, a fairly private individual, said he got requests afterward for finding other lost things, including a wedding band and a fishing rod.

As for the class ring, it is on its way back to its owner for a long-delayed reunion that may never have happened.

"I'm amazed and very grateful that my ring has been found, thanks to Joe Carlson," Headlee said. "It is even sweeter because I truly never expected to see it again. What a good surprise!"