After 50 years underwater, 1961 Naval Academy class ring returns home to Virginia Beach

Posted at 6:22 PM, Jun 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-30 20:16:20-04

It's a moment five decades in the making. Gail Greene has never seen one pretty special ring before today.

It's a 1961 Naval Academy class ring, which belonged to her husband, Navy Commander William Greene.

It’s been missing for more than 50 years--lost long ago when he was stationed in Hawaii.

“He and the other junior officers were playing touch football in the surf at Barber’s Point and it just came off during the game,” said Greene. “Everybody who was playing the game with him dug in the surf and sand, looking for it for an hour but could not find it anywhere. It was like it just disappeared.”

So how did the ring finally turn up? And how did it make its way from Hawaii back to Hampton Roads?

The chain of events began in March when Army Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Gillooly and his wife Elke moved to Barber's Point.

One of their new neighbors showed up on their doorstep with this ring.

“He said, ‘I found this snorkeling off Barber's Point. I snorkel out there because back in the day, the officers' wives would lose their rings in the ocean, and I like to go looking for them,’ but when he found this ring, he said it was different,” said Gillooly. “He knew that ring needed to go back to its owner.”

Luckily, the Gilloolys have a few clues to work with. One is a "G" on the center stone and an inscription, “William WB Greene."

“We had a name, the name of a guy that could be anywhere in the world at this point, from 50 years ago,” said Gillooly. “Logically, there was no way possible we could have found the owner of that ring.”

But it was the middle initials, WB, that helped narrow down their search pointing them in the direction of Virginia Beach.

“That is what ultimately led us to him, to his grave stone,” said Gillooly.

Navy Commander William “WB” Greene was laid to rest at Princess Anne Cemetery after his death on October 30th, 2001.

The inscription on his grave stone, written by his wife, gave the Gillooly's hope she was still alive.

“She has lost a loved one, and to bring something back to her would just thrill her,” said Gillooly.

Being thousands of miles away, though, they needed a little help.

“I did a Google search of local news stations, and WTKR came up,” said Gillooly.

NewsChannel 3 was happy to help take action.

They mailed us the ring, and we showed up on the Greene's doorstep leading to its return home.

“I’m thinking it’s the most beautiful ring I have ever seen,” said Greene.

The ring, though, wasn't the only surprise we had in store for Gail. Thanks to a trusty iPhone and Skype video technology, the Gilloolys had been watching the entire time.

“To be able to return that to her, to return a part of her husband's legacy is priceless,” said Gillooly. “Absolutely worth it, anything we can do to make her happy, bring a little piece of her husband back, is worth it, he is a hero.”

“It’s just overwhelming, wonderful to have,” said Greene. “It’s like he reached out from heaven and touched me.”