Over nearly two decades of scuba diving, Reed Banjanin had come across several long-forgotten trinkets in the sand and silt, but none was more meaningful than one of his most recent discoveries: Louise Hearst’s 1923 class ring.
“I’m a strong believer in Christianity for about two years, and I just don’t believe in coincidences,” Banjanin, 38, told msnbc.com in an interview. “I think everything happens for a reason. I think God brought me to find the owner or a relative of the owner of that ring.”
He found the gold ring at a cave entrance last July about 25 feet below the surface of a Longwood, Fla., spring.
Diver Reed Banjanin discovered Louise Hearst's 1923 class ring at the bottom of this spring in Longwood, Fla.
Hearst’s name was engraved on the inside of the ring after she graduated from Mississippi Women’s College, which later changed its name to William Carey University.
“It’s in absolute perfect condition,” said Banjanin, who works at AT&T as an electronics technician. “Without a doubt the coolest thing I've ever found scuba diving.”And now, nearly a century after it was engraved, the ring has been reunited with Hearst’s grandson, 75-year-old John Entzminger who lives more than 800 miles away in Oakton, Va.
Entzminger received Banjanin’s call, on Dec. 17: his birthday.
"I just couldn't believe it," Entzminger told the Orlando Sentinel. "I had absolutely no idea that my grandmother lost it."
So how did the ring come to rest in the Florida spring? Hearst’s husband’s family was from Seminole County, so it’s believed that she lost the ring while visiting them and swimming in the spring, which was a popular spot.
Finding Entzminger proved challenging for Banjanin, who began with an online search for Mississippi Women’s College alumnae records, where he discovered Hearst was from Hattiesburg, Miss.
“I spent a good few weeks trying to find out more about her,” he told msnbc.com. “I prayed about it, and had the ring next to my bed every night.”
Eventually, Banjanin stopped looking, but a couple weeks before Christmas a friend reminded him about his search.
“I said, let me give it one more try,” said Banjanin.
That’s when he discovered Hearst had lived in Forest County, Miss., and had married John Entzminger. She died in May 1975. With the help of findagrave.com, he located her relatives and eventually tracked down grandson John Entzminger in Virginia, who plans to give the ring to his grandchildren.
“He was just amazed he was so surprised,” Banjanin said. “He’s also a very strong Christian, very faithful. We both agreed it wasn’t a coincidence. It was meant to happen at that time.”