Gunnison man finds, returns lost ring from class of ’64 to owner’s family
By Ben Lasseter
GUNNISON—Don Stewart of Gunnison has a hobby of digging for artifacts in the dump.
A profitable day of digging could yield anywhere from a handful of marbles to a trove of coins; like one day last year, when he found 400 rare pieces, including silver dollars, all in one place.
But he said his favorite kind of find is one he can return to its rightful owner.
Last Wednesday, it had been months since his last trip, and he felt fatigued. He decided to go digging anyway.
“I shouldn’t have even gone out, and I didn’t have the energy,” he said. “I just felt compelled to go.”
Out in an area of about 50 acres, he found a small piece of history of a former Gunnison scavenger without delay. He said it felt like he was “meant to find it.”
“I could’ve started anywhere at all,” he said. “But I walked up to a spot and did one shovel-full, and a ring rolled off the shovel, like, ‘Here I am.'”
He put the dirty ring in his bucket and dug a few more times to find a 1930’s Canadian penny. Then he called it a day.
At home, he cleaned the ring and found it to be a Gunnison Valley High School class ring from 1964. He said it was likely worth around $350.
Inscribed on the ring were the initials “R. F.” He used an old GVHS yearbook to find out the ring must have belonged to Ronald Frandsen.
Stewart said he looked Frandsen up and found him online easily, because Frandsen had been a prominent businessman in Salt Lake City. According to obituaries, Frandsen died in 2010.
Stewart contacted Kelly Frandsen, a Gunnison dentist and Ronald Frandsen’s brother, who said the pair used to dig for treasures in the same dump and must have dropped the ring while doing that.
Kelly Frandsen directed Stewart to his and Ronald’s parents, Evelyn and Allen Frandsen of Centerfield. Stewart said Evelyn Frendsen especially was “very excited” to hear about the ring, and he dropped it off to her two days after finding it.
“Apparently, Ronald was really really upset about losing it and tried finding it for a long time,” Stewart said. “Finding something like that and being able to give it back is the ideal.”
Stewart said Evelyn Frandsen intended to give the ring to Ronald’s widow, Shauna Frandsen in Salt Lake City, a former member of the Relief Society General Board.
Stewart was born in Fairview and moved to Gunnison after he retired from a career as an electrical engineer, contracting to military agencies and NASA. He said he still had a collection of service medals, rings and other jewelry labeled as belonging to a “Joseph Facinelli,” roughly spelled, from years back, but that he had not succeeded in tracking him or his family down. He said he would still like to give them back.
Stewart’s other hobbies include building instruments. He won purple ribbons at the Sanpete County Fair two years ago for a violin he built out of wood, a ukulele and a model train.