DeKALB – Leon Hodgson can count on one hand the number of times in the past 37 years he’s taken off the ring a fellow Korean War veteran gave him more than 60 years ago.
But now Hodgson fears he might never wear it again.
“Every morning now I see I haven’t got the ring and it bothers me,” he said. “I feel lost without it.”
Hodgson, 80, of DeKalb, lost the ring June 30 at Big Lots. He’s been on a mission to get it back since.
“It’s got sentimental value, that’s all,” Leon Hodgson said. “It would be a miracle if someone found it.”
Hodgson said a fellow Air Force veteran with the last name of Hays who was killed in action during the Korean War gave him the ring in 1953 shortly before he died.
Both were 18 when they served in the 92nd Fighter Bomber Squadron in South Korea. They bonded during their time in the service, becoming close friends, Hodgson said. That’s when Hays gave him the gold ring bearing an “H,” their shared initial.
Hays died about two months later, Hodgson said.
After getting out of the service in 1957, Hodgson gave the ring to his dad, Charles Hodgson, because the memories it evoked meant he couldn’t bear to wear it himself. Charles Hodgson wore the ring from 1957 until he died in 1977.
That’s when Leon Hodgson put the ring on. For 37 years he wore the ring dutifully, taking it off maybe a couple times. He planned to give the ring to his son, Leon Hodgson Jr. That is, until he realized he’d lost it at Big Lots last week.
The ring fell off Hodgson’s finger in the men’s room at Big Lots at 1700 Sycamore Road in DeKalb and has yet to be found despite Hodgson’s best efforts.
While he and Big Lots managers scoured the store, Hodgson believes someone might have taken it when it came to rest in one of the store’s aisles.
“I go there every day and look,” Hodgson said. “I just never thought I’d lose it.”
The size-12 gold ring is molded into a square on top with the barely visible “H” engraved into the square. He said it weighs about 24 grams.
Leon said he was throwing away paper towels when he heard the ring clang against something. He had recently lost weight, and the ring fit a little more loosely than usual. After hearing the clang and realizing the ring wasn’t on his finger, Hodgson searched the bathroom for about 10 minutes before enlisting the help of Big Lots staff.
Furniture manager Tabitha Karis said she and another manager were on their hands and knees in the men’s bathroom searching. They also looked in the aisles, behind shelves and anywhere else the ring might have fallen.
She said no one has come forward with any information about the ring, though she doesn’t expect the search to end soon.
“We looked everywhere, and we looked for two hours the day after,” Karis said. “We help Leon when he comes in. We have a note up in the break room. Hopefully, someone turns it in.”
Returning the ring could come with a small reward, Hodgson said. He can be reached at 815-756-0765.
Veteran’s ring missing
The ring is a size 12, men’s gold ring with a flat square on top featuring an engraved “H” that has been worn down. To return the ring, contact Leon Hodgson at 815-756-0765.