Lost 25 years ago, ring back in hands of 1987 Manatee High alum

vmannix@bradenton.comJune 5, 2011 

BRADENTON

Light glinted off the blue stone as Mike Sabatino showed off his Manatee High School senior class ring.

He received it not long ago and was still proud of it.

“It represents memories,” Sabatino said. “Good memories.”

An appropriate sentiment on graduation weekend for sure.

Except Mike Sabatino graduated from MHS in 1987.

And his senior ring?

It’s been missing for 25 years.

“Never thought I’d ever see it again,” said Sabatino, a 43-year-old grandfather.

That the ring was returned to its rightful owner is due to a remarkable confluence of luck, Facebook, and the good intentions of classmates and a career as a rock tour lighting director.

“Funny how things work out,” said Cosmo Wilson from London.

Funny, indeed.

It was Wilson who found the ring in March of 1986 at the Lakeland Civic Center.

Sabatino had gone there for a Ted Nugent concert -- rowdy affairs, historically -- got jumped by troublemakers and the ring came off in the melee.

The instigators were eventually tossed after throwing something at Nugent, who stopped the concert.

“I got beat up good, but what hurt me more was losing the ring, because I’d bought it with my own money,” said Sabatino, who’s a Realtor and owns a lawn maintenance company. “We tried to find it, but it was useless. I thought about it for the first five years, then at the 10-year reunion.

“After that I never really thought of it again.”

Wilson, then a stagehand, spotted the ring under a grate while pulling up cables after the concert.

“I took it home and forgot about it,” he said.

It stayed that way for the next 25 years. Touring with various acts like the Rolling Stones, Barbara Mandrell and Journey to name a few, Wilson was on the road 10 months a year.

Then during a brief stopover late last year he spotted the ring.

“I’d wonder what am I going to do with this? It’s of no value to me, but I didn’t want to throw it away,” said Wilson, an Orlando native whose current home is in Apopka. “You hold onto something like that for some reason. So I just pulled it out and said, I’m going to do this.”

Wilson went on the internet, found Manatee High’s Facebook page and got in contact with Cheryl Hennessy, a 1987 alum and the site’s administrator, who lives in Denver.

She posted a picture of the ring on the MHS Facebook page, including vital details -- the owner’s initials and cross country and track symbols -- and contacted other classmates.

One of them was Kacey Bloski.

“At first we thought it was a scam, but it was legit,” she said. “What are the chances of this happening after 25 years?”

They narrowed it down to two alums -- Sabatino and Mike Suchora.

That Sabatino isn’t on Facebook -- “I don’t do any of that stuff,” he joked -- was only a minor delay in the ring’s eventual return.

The breakthrough came when Bloski saw Wendy Sabatino, Mike’s sister, was a Facebook friend of a mutual acquaintance and contacted her.

Wendy called her brother.

It was early February.

“She asked if I ever had a class ring and did I lose it? I said, yeah, and told her what happened,” Sabatino said. “Then she said there’s a guy thinks he’s got your ring.

“I thought -- is it one of the guys who jumped me?” he said, laughing.

Subsequently, Sabatino exchanged emails with Wilson, describing the ring and referencing the Nugent concert incident.

Wilson mailed the ring in late February.

“I always had hope to find the owner, because things like that come back to you,” he said. “You hear stories like that.”

Sabatino said the ring is in perfect condition, even better than if he’d kept it all these years.

“Getting this back is like bumping into your first love in high school,” he said. “It’s nice to know I’ve got a history with that ring.”

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