'It's a miracle': How a high school ring found in Ireland made it home to Houma

·5 min read
Darrell Callais Jr. of Bayou Blue wears the 1971 South Terrebonne High School class ring that belonged to his late father. The ring was found in Ireland and returned last week.
Darrell Callais Jr. of Bayou Blue wears the 1971 South Terrebonne High School class ring that belonged to his late father. The ring was found in Ireland and returned last week.

When Darrell Callais Jr. was a boy, he would often try on his father’s 1971 South Terrebonne High-class ring, for which his 8-year-old finger was far too small.

“Daddy would say not yet, it doesn’t fit,” Darrell Jr. recalled, noting that his father did say it could one day be his.

The ring disappeared and for decades was deemed forever lost. But a confluence of good deeds by cross-Atlantic angels resulted in the ring being recovered and ending up on 50-year-old Darrell Jr.’s finger, at a McDonald’s on Prospect Street in Houma last week.

“It’s a miracle,” Darrell Jr. said.

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Laura Ann Browning and Jennifer Brignac Authement, two Terrebonne Parish women who arranged for the ring’s return, agree. Neither they nor anyone else knows how the ring ended up 4,000 miles away in Ireland. But they are happy to have played a role in its unlikely and uncanny return.

“I am excited,” Authement said. “Stuff like that doesn’t happen any day. It was fate, it was meant to be, and the Lord works in mysterious ways.”

Jennifer Brignac Authement (left), Darrell Callais Jr. and Laura Ann Browning meet July 27, 2022, at the Prospect Street McDonald's in Houma. The two Terrebonne Parish women helped get the high school ring that belonged to Callais' late father returned from Ireland.
Jennifer Brignac Authement (left), Darrell Callais Jr. and Laura Ann Browning meet July 27, 2022, at the Prospect Street McDonald's in Houma. The two Terrebonne Parish women helped get the high school ring that belonged to Callais' late father returned from Ireland.

Darrell Jr. said he recalled seeing the ring he coveted being in his father’s jewelry box for many years until he was around 15 years old. It was around then that Darrell Sr., an oilfield liftboat captain, suffered injuries from a work-related accident and could not continue his employment.

“Times got hard,” Darrell Jr. said, presuming that the ring, along with other family treasures, ended up at a pawn shop. As an adult, the Bayou Blue man began working in the oil-and-gas industry, hooking up with Williams Pipeline, for whom he still works today.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, a paint-factory worker named Seamus Donnelly amused himself by collecting coins and odd jewelry found in the secondhand stores and yard sales of Dublin, Ireland, and surrounding areas. His attraction to bright, shiny objects earned him the moniker of “Magpie” among family members.

Darrell Callais Jr. of Bayou Blue admires his father’s long-lost class ring after placing it on his finger last week in Houma.
Darrell Callais Jr. of Bayou Blue admires his father’s long-lost class ring after placing it on his finger last week in Houma.

After Seamus died in 2008, his son, Andrew, took charge of the many treasures collected over the years but paid little attention to them.

A little less than a year ago, Andrew was rifling through those treasures and came upon the bright gold ring with the bright green gemstone. He looked closer and saw the South Terrebonne High School inscription and decided to look further, learning of the ring’s south Louisiana origin.

“I got my facts wrong at first,” Andrew said, explaining that he mistakenly contacted Authement through Facebook due to her Terrebonne High alumni affiliations.

After examining a photo of the ring, Authement, of Houma, caught the discrepancy but posted information on Terrebonne High’s class reunion Facebook page just in case someone might have a clue. She also notified Browning, a Facebook friend who is a South Terrebonne Class of 1971 graduate and who immediately commenced her own search for answers.

The ring had been kept in a case in Ireland.
The ring had been kept in a case in Ireland.

By coincidence, Browning was scheduled to make a stop in Dublin enroute from her home in Montegut to her son’s wedding in Paris. So plans were made for her to meet with Donnelly, who would give her the ring. The meeting never occurred, as Donnelly had been involved in an auto accident.

Upon her return to Louisiana, however, Browning made plans with Donnelly for the ring to be sent to her, and he shipped it by post.

Upon close examination, Browning was able to make out the initials “D.C.” engraved upon the 10-karat gold. After poring through the 1971 South Terrebonne High yearbook, Browning determined there were two boys in her class – the keepsake was unmistakably a boy’s ring – with those initials. She contacted one and determined the ring was not his.

Darrell Callais Sr. as seen in his 1971 South Terrebone HIgh School yearbook picture.
Darrell Callais Sr. as seen in his 1971 South Terrebone HIgh School yearbook picture.

The other — Darrell Anthony Callais Sr. — sadly turned up in an obituary from 2015, the fruits of a Google search. A historical researcher and educator, Browning was undaunted. She located Darrell Jr. on Facebook and sent him a message.

“I wasn’t going to answer,” Darrell Jr. said, recalling that friends told him the reach-out was likely a scam. But he took the leap and was flabbergasted to hear Browning’s tale of the ring he once loved so well and its journey to the Emerald Isle.

Its trip is one he is at a loss to explain. Though his dad had been to many places, Ireland was not one of them.

Browning and Authement made plans to meet with Darrell Jr. at the Prospect Street McDonald’s on July 27.

When Browning handed the ring to Darrell Jr., he immediately placed it on his finger and said there was no way it would come off.

Andrew Donnelly.
Andrew Donnelly.

“It gave me memories of our original ring ceremony and receiving our rings way back then,” Browning said. “For him, as a kid, his father’s ring was a signpost of growing up. This was a closing of the circle. I feel rather comforted that together we all made it work, and got the ring back to its beginning. I knew how he felt as a boy playing with his dad’s ring in his hand.”

In Ireland, Andrew Donnelly said he is pleased to be a part of the ring’s return, though he does have a wee regret.

“I am a little bit sorry now that I didn’t do this a lot earlier when its owner was still alive,” Donnelly said. “I am delighted that it has gone back to his family.”

This article originally appeared on The Courier: How a high school ring found its way from Ireland back home to Houma