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Ring returned after lost in WWII (video)

By Sonny Long
July 16, 2013 at 2:16 a.m.

John Frels, of Cuero, displays a Cuero High School ring from 1940 that belonged to his father, Herbert Frels, who died in 2009, and a photo of his father. Herbert Frels lost the ring in World War II, during which he was a prisoner of war and received a Purple Heart medal, but the ring was discovered in Europe some time later. In June it was given to John Frels.

ABOUT HERBERT FRELS

• BORN - Jan. 24, 1922

• DIED - June 17, 2009

• HIGH SCHOOL - Cuero Class of 1940

• ENLISTED IN MILITARY - 1941

• SHOT DOWN - June 13, 1944

• PRISONER OF WAR - 11 months in Barth, Germany

• MILITARY HONORS - Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross, Prisoner of War Medal, Air Medal with two Bronze Stars, among others. In 1999, he was honored with a resolution in the Texas Senate after receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross.

• PERSONAL - Married Helen Buehrig in 1947, three children, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren

• COLLEGE - Alvin Community College, University of Wisconsin

• PROFESSIONAL CAREER - Soil conservation service, longtime Exxon distributor

• COMMUNITY SERVICE - Helped established Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Cuero, first commander; member of American Legion, Masonic Lodge; Cuero school board trustee; DeWitt County Appraisal District board of directors

• HONORS - Cuero school district Distinguished Service Award, 1999; Cuero school district Cuero Distinguished Alumnus, 2004-05

ANOTHER WORLD WAR II RECOVERY

In 2010, the Advocate reported on another miracle find in Europe, this one from an Italian battlefield where a late Shiner man's dog tags, ring and a religious medal were recovered. Oscar Glomb had been wounded in battle there June 22, 1944. The items were returned to his widow 66 years later. Learn more here.

We'll never be sure if the late Herbert Frels ever knew exactly when or where he lost his Cuero High School class ring.

But lost it he did - in Europe during World War II.

When his son, Yorktown dentist John Frels, received a telephone call last month that his father's class ring had been found, he was astonished.

"It was hard to believe after almost 70 years that this would turn up," said Frels. "Dad would have been elated."

Frels said his mother never recalled a story about a lost class ring but thinks it must have been importance because his father was still wearing it in the service.

"The man who found the ring is passed away, too, so we can't get the complete story," he said.

The part of the story that is known is that Bobby Parker, of Vidor, called Frels about a Cuero High School Class of 1940 ring with the initials "H.F." inside.

Parker called the Cuero school district and asked whom it might belong to. Parker's great-uncle, Thomas Bottoms, was a member of the occupying forces in Europe as World War II wound down.

"My great-uncle gave it to his niece," Parker said. "My aunt said it was about 1947, but she could be off a year or two."

That aunt, Audee Parker Reed, now of Flynn, held onto the ring.

"She is the kind of person that never throws anything away. She was just a kid when she got it. To her, it was just an interesting trinket. She didn't remember being told exactly where it came from," Parker said.

She was selling jewelry when the story emerged, he said. He thought it was a neat story and thought it needed to go back to the family.

After finding out about Herbert Frels, Parker became even more intrigued.

"First of all, I was amazed it had a turkey on the front. I thought that was interesting," he said. "Then, the more we researched Herbert Frels, the more we found out what an interesting gentleman he was."

Herbert Frels crash landed his bomber behind enemy lines June 13, 1944, and spent 11 months in a German prisoner of war camp.

"We don't know if he left the ring behind in Italy, where he was based, before he flew out on this mission," said Frels.

"We don't know if he lost it when he was shot down and the townspeople found it or if the Nazis took the ring. And with Mr. Bottoms passed away, too, we may never know."

Parker has one theory.

"According to my aunt, my great-uncle loved to play poker," he said. "I like to think he might have won it in a poker game."

No matter how Bottoms came across the ring, John Frels' wife, Kathy, finds the ring's discovery extraordinary.

"What are the odds of ever getting this back again? And in great shape," she said. "It's a miracle."

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