Treasure in the dirt

It was almost like it was waiting to be found. A high school ring that was lost more than 40 years turned up after a little digging, making a little girl happy she was able to help solve a mystery for a Dunkirk man.

Six-year-old Joella Bauza lives on Chestnut Street in Fredonia, a few doors down from the childhood home of Tom Nasca, a home his mother, Mrs. Carl Nasca, still lives in.

“She just had a shovel and wanted to go dig in the back yard. She was a good 30 feet away from the house and she dug about 2 inches down and came running inside with a ring covered in dirt,” Lindsey Bauza said of her daughter. “I put a picture on Facebook and (Dunkirk Police Officer) Denise Zentz actually wrote me and she said that she’d look into it. She contacted someone named Judy Bohn and she looked into the records and found the initials on it and she figured out who it was.”

Bauza said the ring looked to be in perfect condition after it was cleaned.

“He said he lost it a couple weeks after he got it,” she added. “He was walking through the backyards, because his mom lives a couple houses down, and he lost it a couple weeks after he got it and it’s been gone for 40 years.”

Bauza said Nasca was excited when he heard the news.

“He walked over from his mother’s and gave Joella a $20 reward,” Bauza explained. “She was just elated to give it to him. She was excited that she found it and was able to give it back.”

While Joella will enter the second grade at Fredonia Elementary School in September, Nasca is a 1974 graduate of the former Cardinal Mindszenty High School. He was asked about losing the ring.

“The neighbors who lived in the house at that time, their kids were the same age we were, we hung out together. We were in their backyard playing or messing around doing something,” Nasca replied. “I don’t recall now what it was, but when I got home I didn’t have my ring on and I had no idea where it got lost.

“That was the last I saw of it until 40 years later when I got a call and they said they found it.”

Nasca, a stacker crane operator at Fieldbrook Foods Inc., was unable to attend his class reunion in June as he was recovering from recent surgery. He has since returned to work after a medical odyssey that began in January.

“It was pretty nice to be able to come home and all of a sudden get a phone call saying, ‘hey, we found your class ring,'” he stated. “I was very grateful that they found the ring and they were able to track it down, I never thought I’d see it again. I can’t believe she was able to dig in the one spot where the ring was.”

Nasca said he is not wearing the ring.

“The ring shrunk, it doesn’t fit my finger any more, it must have been in the ground too long,” he joked. “I’d like to think it was that, not because I’ve gotten bigger.”

Zentz was asked about her part in the ring return.

“When I read it on Facebook I thought it was a very neat find and I knew the owner would love to have it back, so I made a few contacts to people I knew who went to Mindszenty. Then I resorted to Judy Bohn, who I worked with at the Dunkirk High school cafeteria,” she replied. “Judy knows everyone and is a good Catholic girl who has links to all the Mindszenty alumni, and within a few minutes she had the name for me and I was able to check out his current address and phone number to give to the Bauza family.

“This wasn’t anything for my job, I just thought it was a neat find and wanted to help get it back to the owner. It was like one of the stories you see on TV and I was interested to see how and when he lost it.”

As for Bohn, she said “It was very exciting to help.”

“Denise texted me and asked if I knew anybody who graduated from Mindszenty who had graduated with the class of 74,” Bohn said, adding she knew CMHS graduates but not what class year. Bohn said it was the first search for her.

“I said why not give it a try and see if they have a website,” she added. “They did and I thought how wonderful.”

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