During all too many moments of forced indoor tranquility this stormy winter, I’ve been savoring the many enjoyable and diverse hunting stories that local sportsmen have shared. One of the most amazing involved neither a gun nor a bow.
This incredible tale, which personally hit home, is about a long-lost class ring that cost a Grafton High School girl over a hundred hours of baby sitting at 50 cents an hour — and a Massachusetts treasure hunter who miraculously found it 50 years later for her.
You’ve likely never heard of “Casper.” Part knight and part metal “detectorist,” he’ll never be entered into the Boone & Crocket or Pope & Young record books. But among dedicated treasure hunters, he’s world class. Over the years, Casper has found well more than $100,000 worth of unforgettable trophies, several of which deserve to be mounted in print, if not on his wall.
“Casper” is the nickname of a publicity-shy, under-water treasure hunter who has spent most of his life searching for the unknown — and even more importantly, for the happiness he can bring to the people who are connected with the treasures he finds. You might well say he’s as much of a happiness hunter as he is a treasure hunter. And if you fully understand what he tries to do for others, you’ll grasp what the real treasure of life is.
Casper began what would evolve into a sophisticated, life-long endeavor in 1979 when he was only 12. After many notable finds, he spent five years writing regularly for a treasure hunting magazine. His hunt for other people’s losses recently brought great joy to my wife, Helen.
Back in the summer of 1967, while swimming in celebration with her just-graduated senior classmates at the beach in Dennis Port, Helen lost her new Grafton High School class ring. Exuberantly throwing a football long and joyfully in the waves resulted in her ring finger skin shriveling — and the ring falling off. It was a painfully sad moment.
Two summers ago, swimming with snorkel, fins, and a metal detector specifically designed for use in salt water, Casper searched in head-deep water that had for decades been out of the reach of traditional walking metal detectors scanning the same Dennis Port beaches. His submerged detector produced a signal from a metal object buried a foot-and-half deep in the sand.
Holding his breath, Casper excitedly dove and dug long enough to pull out a mysterious object that was encrusted with mineral crystals that puzzlingly obscured its identity — but also serendipitously protected it from the abrasion of sand, rock, and water, which surely would have otherwise ruined it.
After applying the alchemy skills of his coterie to remove the encrustations, he found inside the rough mineral blob a still-brilliant ring, miraculously like new, with the inscription “Grafton High School 1967” outside and “H.V. Rawinski” inside. From the size, he knew it had to be a girl’s ring.
Casper then began the second and far more complicated stage of his treasure hunting work: finding the identity — and, more importantly, the heart — of its owner. He searched for anything Rawinski-related in the town of Grafton. This past September, Casper shared with me that, “After doing a lot of research, I found an obituary for a Stasia Rawinski. It said she had a daughter Helen, who was married to a Mark Blazis.” Casper says he got my email address from my online Telegram & Gazette column — and wrote me wondering if this ring could possibly be my wife’s.
Casper further explained, “Using the Grafton News and her class’s website, I read that they were having a 50th class reunion — but I didn’t see Helen’s name on their list. I momentarily wondered all sorts of scenarios. Maybe she didn’t graduate. Maybe she transferred to another school, or dropped out to marry you.”
I immediately responded to Casper, affirming that YES! — he had indeed found the woman he was looking for. Casper was elated. So next we discussed the most appropriate way to present it to her. Each of us knew that Helen would be positively stunned.
Casper suggested that we meet somewhere neutral. We agreed that the perfectly appropriate place to present Helen’s ring back to her would be on the night of her upcoming 50th class reunion at Cyprian Keys in Boylston.
In the Keys’ lobby, Casper presented Helen both her ring and the story of how he miraculously found it — all the while eliciting from those incredulously around him lots of smiles, teary eyes, and several hugs of appreciation. The event was a first for both Casper and me. It was the first ring that he ever found that still fit the original owner. And this was the first time another man ever put a ring on my wife’s hand — with my total encouragement.
My instinctive reaction was to immediately give Casper a well-deserved financial reward. Casper reflexively refused — as he always has — any and all attempts to financially thank him. And so, I began learning about the special mind and heart of this extraordinary and unselfish hunter. He humbly shared that there are other treasure hunters just like him.
Casper confided, “I don’t reveal my real name. I don’t need or want strangers looking for and finding me. I’ve found many treasures collectively worth a fortune over the years — and as an unexpected consequence — had my house broken into, just like several other of my treasure hunting friends.” Fortunately, Casper can deal with the dregs of society and still see the positive side of humanity.
Casper confided, “I rarely go to new sites — so I mostly find older class rings whose owners are naturally harder to find. Making the task even more difficult, a good number of their schools are gone.” He also pointed out that, “guy’s rings are generally a lot easier to return to their owners. When women get married and change their names, the search gets tough. And sometimes they further complicate finding them by getting married multiple times.”
I wanted to at least treat Casper to that reunion dinner and let him speak inspirationally to Helen’s class. He clearly could demonstrate that even after 50 years, the fulfillment of seemingly impossible dreams is possible. But Casper humbly passed on that suggestion, having gotten all the reward he wanted just by seeing the happiness that his efforts had brought.
Casper calls his small coterie that regularly returns other people’s lost treasures without pay “detectorists.” To the surprise of many who think they know everything about human nature, the detectorists’ altruism is part of their new tradition’s ethic. As it turns out, there are some people who can inspirationally find joy without financial remuneration.
Casper says, “I take smiles and hugs from the women — and hand-shakes from the guys. I’ve never accepted money.” His treasured souvenirs of his hunts are pictures of the people and the lost treasures that he has improbably reunited. I hope he reads and enjoys this column.
“Our reward is seeing the happiness that our efforts can make. Regarding personal satisfaction, I’ve had lots of stories written about my finds, some of which are on display at the Hyannis Maritime Museum. And I’ve even been on TV for making some special returns in the past. But finding Helen’s ring — it being lost for 50 years and my oldest find ever — will be the most special one for me.”
As we shook hands, he hugged Helen, said good-bye, and told me if ever I knew of someone who desperately needed help finding a lost personal treasure to contact him at Casperther@yahoo.com. And so Casper, the happiness hunter, left us quietly, more than ever a mystery and an inspiration.