The Return of the Riordan Ring

An Unofficial Reunion Ceremony



The Backstory

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.:

  1. Did you lose your ring?
  2. When did you lose it?
  3. What color was it?
  4. What is your middle name?

His answers were:

  1. Yes I did.
  2. 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.
  3. 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”.
  1. 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:

  1. Where did you find it?
  2. What compelled you to contact me?

My Story

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?”

Justin Cartwheel w Logo

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 happy to see the sun crthat 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.


Burl Toler, Ollie Matson, John Finney 1951
Burl Toler, Ollie Matson, John Finney 1951
Bob St. Clair, Bill Hennebery, Burl Toler
Bob St. Clair, Ralph Thomas, Burl Toler, Vince Tringali





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”

IMG_4652-1and we hugged and then parted ways.

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.


Our Story

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!

JCWWP_Logo_with_Butterfly_II_copy copy












  1. I went to school with Greg at SI. Ironically, my late mother, Maxine Michael Duncan, dated the late Burl Toler, while she was the first black graduate of Notre Dame school for girls. This story touched my heart because I also lost my treasured High School ring. A very good Samaritan found it and returned to the school. I got it back because my signature was on the inside. Very much more than a momento, it was a gift from my maternal Grandmother.

  2. Wow, Thank you so much of your story, I knew your father and I knew your brother Burl as well, we lived on Miramar, went to st E’s… must be a Westwood Park thing as I remember the squeak of your front door though I don’t think I was there six times, Burl and I went to different high schools. God bless you all.

    1. Jim,
      I will tell Burl you said hello. The door still squeaks and my little Architect Justin fixed it one time with some oil!!! He was particular like that. Thank you for connecting.


  3. Thank you Susan for continuing to share your life with us all. Life unveils itself to us in mysterious ways. Justin continues to resonate with us all. We love you!

  4. Susan,

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I went to St. Emydius too. I did not know your family. I do remember you all together at church on Sunday’s and how you all looked so put together. I admired how you were as a family. I remembered your Brother he was a year or two older than me. A good looking family. I wish I had words to help you heal just know you are in my thoughts and prayers. I know Justin will always be in your heart and soul. I will pass along peace to everyone I can through my actions towards them.

    1. Thank you Janet. Trying to live like Justin can make a difference in this world and my husband and I are trying to do the same. St. Emydius was such a special place. Justin would go to church on Sundays with my Dad and help him take up the collection.. Peace to you.

  5. Dear Susan,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am so so sorry for the loss of your Justin. Just a few seconds into the video and how can one help but fall in love with him! I loved hearing Justin talk about always being stopped by people when out with his grandfather. I remember with great delight bumping into your dad when out with my parents, often at Serramonte Shopping Center. It would have been in the 70’s. My father played ball with your dad at USF and had great admiration for him. As a child I remember your father’s warmth and kindness and as Justin said, “He made you feel that you were the only one.” He made you feel that you mattered. I’m glad that SF is a healing place for you. Those were indeed special times. Love to you Susan on this mysterious journey.

  6. What an incredible, well spoken beautiful young man!!! He is clearly still with you and under the wing of his grandfather.
    I too grew up in the area, in Ingleside Terrace and believe we have met. My dad, Bill Mallen was also at USF a couple of years after your dad and he was a big fan of his. Your son’s eloquent recitation of memories with his grandfather evoked many of my memories of my Dad. I am so very sorry for your loss- such a very huge loss. You are moving through thus with bravery, pride and such tremendous love – it is both a testament to your son and your grit.
    I wish you peace, calm and strength to continue move forward in surviving the loss of your beautiful son.
    – Carrie Mallen

    1. Carrie,

      There are no words with unimaginable loss. Justin was so much like my Dad. My husband and I have to have faith and hope that he is surrounded by the love of both sets of grandparents by his side. I’m sure my Dad knew yours.


  7. Another absolutely beautiful story from an incredible women, who I am so proud to call my cousin! Justin reigns!
    Love you!

    1. Cousin Sean, you amaze me too of how you are dealing with your own personal struggles. Your honestly as you deal with your cancer is inspiring to all of us too. As hard as it may be, voicing your ups and downs is as powerful as I find myself in helping myself and others with the power of the pen. xoxo

  8. susan – that you for once again sharing an amazing story. the reason wonderful things happen to you is because you are the most open person i know. you are so generous with your time and your heart that are a magnet of love. it has been six years since we lost our beautiful son david, also in an instant. i miss him all of the time. it’s taken me longer than you, but i am trying to connect with other people. every person is a gift and the more we allow people into our lives, the richer our lives will be. thank you for leading the way for even the much longer bereaved parents. xxx pepper

    1. Pepper, we had to meet for the wrong circumstances in losing our precious boys, but together we will walk this road and hold each other up with the unconditional love we will always have for our babies. xoxo

  9. Susan,
    Enjoyed your story. Many of us have experienced loss in our families. High school rings are a touch stone to our past. I fondly remember your family and brothers at St. Emydius.
    Ann Badillo

  10. Susan, what a beautiful and compelling story. It is amazing how you rediscovered the RHS ring and how it was returned to the original owner, Kevin Curran. Moreover, the story of your son and your family stands the test of time- truly San Francisco’s special story of a unique and celebrated neighborhood (Ingleside/St. Francis Woods) of riches and promise. I am certain that your gift of bring people together will not go unnoticed! Also, the 1951 USF Dons Football team- and their plight- is an incredible piece of San Francisco history that must be told- perhaps in a Documentary (any film people out there?). You have an incredible family- thank you!!!

    1. Thanks Dan and I will forward you some info on the film. Justin had the same character traits as my Dad. They were like two peas in the same pod. Justin never met my mom, but he knew all about her and he looked just like her when he was born. Thank you!!

  11. Wonderful story. My heart goes out to you and your husband, in the loss of Justin. Hopefully his wish for world peace will happen in our lifetime. Thank you for sharing.
    Valerie O’Riordan
    Drama Director @ Riordan HS

    1. Valerie, Justin loved loved acting and all aspects of Technical Theater design. He left behind miniature sets from so many shows he would come home to design after watching the plays.
      We never heard him practice any lines to the plays and he was always so memorable.

      He was Bert Healy in Annie but he loved singing this song in 8th grade

      Rodger in Grease

      Avram in Fiddler and he never dropped the bottle


      And the list goes on and on…
      Yes I hope that this world can find some kind of peace. Thank you

  12. Hi Susan. I am heart broken to hear you lost your son. I grew up with your family. I was in Martin’s class and played basketball with Jennifer. I went to USF and felt special because they talked about your father but I actually knew and loved your family. I love your comment about the SF we were raised in. I didn’t know about prejudice until I left home. Thank you for your story. I was Kevin’s girlfriend and I lost the ring. Thanks for getting it back to him.

    1. Anne,
      When he told me your name, I went home and asked both Marty now goes by Martel and Jeni. They knew you well and remembered good times with you and your brother Stephen. Yes, we grew up at a special time and I wish that the kids of today could experience what we did and had-, but I’m afraid it isn’t so. I am a broken mother and my husband and I are trying to put a few pieces back together so that we can move in order to have Justin live through us. I will email you a few things. How did you hear about the story? Where are you living? Word travels fast. Best to you. You can respond after I email you. Take care and thanks for reaching out. xoxo

  13. Thank you for sharing your story! I went to school with your brother Burl. I remember your family and loved feeling a connection to your dad whenever I saw him officiating an NFL game!!

    Take care and thank you for the memories of growing up in a great part of the city!!

    1. The memories are what keeps me going these days. I wish that all of the kids of today could experience a community. That is what we instilled in Justin, each and every day!!
      Thank you.

  14. Connector extraordinaire!,Thank you for sharing this story and for searching for the owner of the ring. Amazing! You, Darrell, and justin Carr wants world peace continue to inspire me everyday to seek out friendship in everyone I encounter.

    1. Helen, so glad that we met even though the school thing has passed. So glad that we will be forever connected and that you and your family always embraced and welcomed us into your family. xox

  15. Dear Susan,

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story! It shows that within your loss, you keep finding new things. Justin continues to surround you with love and guides you towards touching lives with your giving spirit. I love you.


    1. Mary, it will be our gifts to our beautiful boys that will keep us moving in the right aka “write” direction. Justin and Nick will always be that butterfly soaring or that beautiful rainbow up high in the sky. xoxo

  16. My father James Martin was a great friend of Burl Toler I always remember hearing about how great he was as a man and friend. My father truly loved Burl Toler.

  17. Thank you for sharing your story….. I am so touched by your journey…. Justin has left his mark in this world.

    Bless you

  18. What a wonderful story! It just shows how kind some people are and how they will go the extra mile to return such a special item to the rightful owner. This kindness will come back to you tenfold, and I hope that someone will something kind for you some day!

    1. You know when the rug gets pulled from under you.. you have to find new ground to stand on. I will never be the same prior and I hope that I find the strength to continue in a worthwhile direction. Thank you.

  19. God had other plans for the love of your life ,he let you have Justin for a short time to let the world know that this young man had something to show us all and that was so much love for all us human beans.He is looking down still with you watching over you ,their a reason for everything that is done,Your Father and Mother where the Nice’s people that anyone could ever know.My husband and I knew them from St Emydius ,no matter where we ever met if it would be at the old Payless over the hill or at Safeway on ocean ave they always stop and talk good people as they raise 6 wonderful children who I know they where very proud of .Thank you for sharing
    this story, It brought a big smile to me
    Norm and Peggy Babin

    1. My parents always instilled in us to treat people right and to do your best. Those values were passed down to Justin. I remember Payless and Safeway. What a community of calm and parking spaces in our neighborhood we had!!

  20. What a wonderfully written, inspiring, loving and compassionate story. I have always advocated that we are all indeed connected irrespective of our race, religion, gender, geographic location, etc. This is definitely a small and forever shrinking world and as we all age we continue to experience this wonderful connection we have to others and are afforded the opportunity to truly embrace the emotional sameness we all share…..it is unfortunate that the world on its larger scale does not grasp and embrace this wonderful sameness.

    1. Tony, you are so right. Justin wanted the same thing and wanted people to connect through the personal touch and visual contact. We are going to have Justin’s vision live through us. All it takes is to include everyone and exclude no one.

  21. My son just won an award at his High School named the “Burl Toler Award” and received a lettermen jacket. He asked if I knew who Burl Toler is and I had told him that the name was sounded familiar but was not sure and he explain about the USF Football team and your fathers story. I knew of the story because my father was friends with Bob St. Clair. I started your story and got a chill. Kevin Curran is a friend of mine since High School. I too lost my brother at a young age. He was killed coming out of a bar in 1981. He was only 23. Thank you for sharing this amazing story.

    1. I will send you a link where you can see a bit more and learn about who my father was. Congrats to your scholar.I’m sure my Dad would tell him to do your best and your best will be good enough.

      1. Susan, what a beautifully written story of Justin and the experiences you had growing up in our wonderful neighborhood. What a beautiful tribute you make to his life and commitment to truth and peace. Carolyn called me this morning telling me of her admiration of you, the story, and the whole Toler family. Of course you know the connection between the Bryant/Toler families. I would surely love to have a copy of that picture of BT, Ollie, and John. I love you, let’s talk soon.

        1. Nancy,
          Thank you for taking the time to send this special memory you and your Dad shared with my Dad. You are right about how he made you feel. Even though I was 1 of 6 kids, he made me feel like I was an only child. Justin was so much like my Dad. Together again. I love how you coined this in unimsginable journey… “Mysterious” I will share this with my other grief sisters as we walk on this journey because we often ask ” Why us? Why our child? Thank you. Yes. Dad loved to shop!! So did my Mother.

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