The Return of the Riordan Ring
An Unofficial Reunion Ceremony
What do you do after you loose something or someone special? I am learning firsthand that there is not one answer or timeline when you are faced with dealing with the aftermath from any type of a loss. It’s whatever you want to do… Grief can occur from a death, divorce, relationship, illness, a move, loss of safety, loss of trust, loss of a job, terror, trauma, pet loss , natural disaster and the list goes on.
Since losing our only child, Justin, on February 22, 2013, (who died instantly from an undiagnosed heart condition during swim practice mere minutes after concluding a happy call with me), life as we once knew it will never be the same. For over a year, I could not travel to far from my home in Southern California—let alone travel up to my hometown of San Francisco—the beautiful foggy city by the bay. It was just too painful.
San Francisco has held oh so many happy memories with my parents and siblings and many fond moments that I shared with my husband, Darrell, and Justin. We even got married in the beautiful historic St. Paulus Church, just a mere 6 months before it burned down from a fire caused by an arsonist.
San Francisco was our “go to place “ for most holidays and vacations. Our family home was where our little budding Architect-Justin-
loved to visit his beloved Grandfather, Burl Toler; aka “Papa”.
He also loved the house, and studying the intricate design of the 1928 structure. He also marveled at the stories my siblings shared with him of our childhood memories growing up in the Ingleside District, sliding down the steep hills on wax boards, walking to and from school sans our parents—and how we spoke to our neighbors and everyone in our school and knew where they lived—whether it be on the north or south side of Ocean Avenue or in St. Francis Woods. Justin would often say: “Mom, stop talking about it, because the world has changed and kids don’t grow up like that anymore.” He was right…
Recently, the urge finally hit me so I took to the highway and pressed the pedal to the metal for the 400-mile journey north to surround myself in the comfort and memories that still lay dormant in our home. The inside of the house was like a time capsule. It was filled with treasures that included board games (still in tack), mid-century furniture, records, turntables, books, pictures galore, and stuff from 96 years of education!! OMG! That’s right, you can do the math: six kids x 16 years of education = 96 years. Contents even included every single report card. My parents saved all of our childhood memories as our house also became a permanent storage bin when everyone moved out!!! Sound familiar?? I even found a tuition statement from St. Emydius $27/month for 6 kids, receipts from stores gone-by i.e. I. Magnin, Joseph Magnin, Roos/Atkins, the Big E Emporium, Mademoiselle,City of Paris, and Getz. Now aren’t those names a real flashback?
During this weeks challenge, I uncovered lost letters, postcards, and funny pictures revealing succinctly the signs of the time. We also found random yearbooks from schools that none of us ever attended, and sports trophies with unknown names and categories that none of us ever played. So, we just assumed that these were the result of purchases our Dad probably made during his frequent hobby visits to the local thrift stores and Goodwill. We summarized that he had the good intention that someday he would meet the people whose names actually appeared on the trophies or who were pictured in the yearbooks and give them back to them???
The Ring Story
While I was chatting with my younger brother Greg, I grabbed a slightly heavy old can with a Katydid label from our fund raising days at St. Emydius Elementary school.
I was hoping not to find any remnants of aged old chocolate candy. To my surprise, inside I found, pens, cufflinks, old whistles, coins, some jewelry and a few sticky S&H Green Stamps. (trading stamps which could be redeemed for catalog items) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S&H_Green_Stamps.
I also found Greg’s St. Ignatius (SI) High School ring and then this random Riordan High School ring engraved with the initials KPC with the year 1982. I asked Greg: “Do you know anyone from Riordan who may have these initials? “He candidly smirked and said with a smile “ Hey, I did not deal with any of those Riordan boys! But, maybe it was from one of our sister Jennifer’s old flames.” He then said: “With all of these random yearbooks and trophies, Dad probably found it on one of his shopping sprees”. We laughed. I then said: “What do we do with this ring ???” Later that evening, I called my sister to inquire about the ring. She first said: “ Yes , she dated a guy with similar initials.” Then she quickly recoiled her statement and said: “ Wait a minute, I did not date any guys from Riordan only SI.” LOL
Next, I decided to enter a Face Book (FB) post on the “ I went to a Catholic School in San Francisco Group Page”
This was my first posting ever in this group. “Found a Riordan 1982 school ring with initials KPC send message if you know the owner or if you are the owner.”
Within minutes ,the post was shared and within hours I was contacted by a few readers via private messaging with possible leads to the owner. Then, I received a message from the Riordan Alumni Director, Marc Rovetti. He said he had narrowed it down to three possible guys and he would get back to me ASAP. Within a few minutes he sent me the name and contact info for an alumni named Kevin Curran.
Subsequently, I sent Kevin a text message and we quickly made arrangements for the next day for “ the “unofficial ring ceremony.” As it turned out, Kevin now lived only 1.5 miles from my family home. Prior to knocking on his front door, for security reasons, I called my brother and gave him Kevin’s contact info and told him I would call him after I delivered the ring. Kevin opened up the door and as I stood outside on the porch, we introduced ourselves. But, before I passed the ring over to him he had to answer a few questions i.e.:
- Did you lose your ring?
- When did you lose it?
- What color was it?
- What is your middle name?
His answers were:
- Yes I did.
- I gave it to my girlfriend who went to Mercy and she lost it. She felt bad when she had to tell me that she did not have it anymore.
- He described the stone then he said it was made out of Lustrium. I asked what is that? With a slight tear in his eyes he said: “It was all that my parents could afford at the time, it is a non-precious metal alloy it is not gold or silver”.
- He said his middle name is Phillip
So, since he scored 100% on the questions, I pulled out the ring from my bag and handed it to him. He beamed like he had just won the lottery.
Kevin then had a few questions for me:
- Where did you find it?
- What compelled you to contact me?
I told him that I came to town as “ therapy.” I told him that life as I once knew it changed in a flash of a second when my husband and I LOST our only child Justin a few years ago. He gasped and could barely keep his composure or the tears from really flowing. He said: “I am so sorry, can you tell me about your son?”
I spoke about Justin my selfless Earth angel, Renaissance Man, scholar, singer, actor, artist, Junior Olympic BUTTERFLY swimmer, underdog supporter – who repetitively since age 4 prayed, “God help us achieve world peace” – the in memoriam “most INSPIRATIONAL” student at his school’s graduation about whom over 100 of his classmates wrote their college essays – an ebullient charming child.”
He was speechless. Mid-discussion his daughter came down the stairs and he introduced us. She said that she was a senior in HS and that she was a swimmer. I showed her a picture of Justin and said that he also swam and his favorite stroke was the butterfly.
Kevin was sporting his company uniform with the logo”Construction” imprinted. I told him that I am an engineer, and that I also do commercial construction, but I have not been to work since that dreadful day. Kevin looked at me and said: “I lost two brothers and I am still trying to grabble with this pain and trying to connect with them to make sure that they are okay on the other side.”
I told him that initially I was skeptical about the various signs that were coming into our life. So I started writing about them.
http://www.justincarrwantsworldpeace.org/wordpress/ My husband and I have received so many positive nontangible gifts, and messages and love since our horrific loss that have reconfirmed that Justin is still with us. I told Kevin that the CBS2 News channel in LA won and Emmy Award about “Justins’ Story,
and I told him last week one of Justin’s elementary school classmates was in the SF Chronicle and mentioned the impact of the loss of her friend Justin.
I gave Kevin one of Justin’s cards with his infamous paintings that he did for “extra credit” and a image of him doing the butterfly and a perfect cartwheel– just a mere 3 weeks before he died. I shook my head and said: “ Justin was a strong, viable 16 year old seemingly healthy young man who died instantly. I took him to the doctors for everything… We did not have a chance to help…”
He asked me my maiden name and I told him it is “Toler”. He was not familiar with the name. I told him that the mural on the building that is just two blocks from his house—on the corner of Ocean and Junipero Serra has an image of my Dad amongst the community leaders of the past. In amazement He said;” I look at that everyday!”
He then said to me: “ I never read the paper, but yesterday, my wife shared the article about the passing of a USF football Great Bob St. Clair who was on the infamous 1951 Dons team.” He said the team did not go to a bowl game because there were two black players on the team. I told him one was my Dad. He could not believe it.
Kevin then tried to hand me money to buy a meal. I said bluntly, “I did not come here for money!” I made this effort because I am on a different mission in life. Some things matter more than others.
“However, if you like, you can donate the funds to the foundation that we set up in Justin’s honor.” http://www.justincarrwantsworldpeace.org/. Justin wanted to help kids who were less fortunate than he was and also to provide visual and performing art programs for the underserved school. I then gave Kevin one of luggage tags that we gave to Justin’s 2014 graduating, classmates.
Kevin put the tag in his back pocket, and put the ring on his “pinky finger”
Later that night I spoke to my siblings and told them this LOST and FOUND story. Two of them knew Kevin’s girlfriend and her brothers very well and said that they went to St Emydius and even hung out at our house when they were in high school. So, maybe, she inadvertently lost it in our house 33 years ago???
We will never know how that ring found it’s way into our home. And it really does not matter. What matters most today is what may have been LOST in 1982 has now been FOUND in 2015. Kevin can proudly enjoy the weight of his ring on his finger and smile about his high school memories.
Kevin’s last text message to me was “ Susan, I still can’t believe after all these years I got it back… Thanks again. You are a great person!!! Susan we have to believe that we will be reunited with your son Justin, my brothers and all who have gone before us. We will be reunited in the future and that should give us hope. “
I still try and grapple daily and deal with my major unimaginable loss. I will continue to look for treasures and keep the memoires I had with Justin present in our life and appreciate the good childhood we had in San Francisco that was surrounded by an ethnically balanced neighborhood where everyone got along, respected each other, played and lived in the neighborhood. This simplicity and engagement has been LOST in our communities, but hopefully some of the old ways of living will somehow be FOUND so that future generations can be less selfish, and more empathetic and compassionate toward people and appreciate what matters most in life.
How do you handle a loss? I just try and continue to love this life as Justin did and live it as bravely, faithfully and cheerfully as I can as I remember him every day and try and carry his message for peace—one step at a time. Keep life simple and say “I love you” to those in your life as often as possible.
The world is small and there is a place for everyone in it!