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Discovery of long-lost ring turns fortune of woman mourning loss of brother

Olson sisters, from left, Mya Ganssle, Michele Anderson and Mandi Olson1 / 2
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Michele Anderson says her life changed Monday after a good Samaritan found her 1993 Edinburg (N.D.) High School class ring - a ring that's been lost for 20 years.

The ring was found in a snow pile along a Langdon, N.D., street on what would have been the 34th birthday of her younger brother, Mike.

It's a day on which she has mourned since 1990, when Mike, who was 11, was killed in a car accident on their way to church in Edinburg. Michele, who was 15 at the time, was driving the car.

"Every year on his birthday, I just wake up with this yucky feeling, like I don't even want to get out of bed," she said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "After this happened, I told my mom it's about time I stop mourning his death and start celebrating his life."

Here's a little background:

Michele had just graduated from Edinburg when she exchanged class rings with her then-boyfriend. However, just a short time later, the boyfriend lost the ring while working on a cattle farm near Langdon.

"He told me he lost it in a cow pasture," she said.

"She was absolutely devastated at the time, because our family was dirt poor and she had worked so hard herself to pay for it on her own," said her sister, Mya Ganssle, who lives in Grand Forks.

Fast-forward 20 years to Monday morning, when Michele she received a text message from a friend who works at KNDK Radio in Langdon. He told her someone had called to say he had found a 1993 class ring that might be hers.

He passed along the telephone number of the person to found it. She immediately dialed it, reaching Gary Haugland, who lives near McVille, N.D., about 80 miles away.

The description matched, right down to the "Michele K. Olson" engraved on the inside.

Haugland, who is network administrator at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, had driven to Langdon on Saturday for a family Christmas party, he said.

They parked car, went inside and then came back out to haul more packages into the house.

"There was the ring, sitting right on top of the snow, right beside the vehicle on top of a windrow of snow left by a snowplow," he said.

He contacted the radio station on Monday morning, to see if people there could help find the owner.

After talking with Michele by phone, he agreed to put it in the mail and send it to her. But later that day, Michele and her husband, Steve, decided to drive to McVille to pick it up.

"It was quite awesome to see her and to see how excited she was to get it back, how everything just seemed to fall into place," Haugland said. "Talk about a Christmas miracle."

"It would be fun to see the history of this ring," Michele said. "The stone's not broken or nothing. Other than the fact that it's 20 years old, there's nothing wrong with it."

The sisters -- Michele, Mya and Mandi -- believe the ring's discovery is some sort of sign or message from their brother.

"From the moment she got the news, her whole outlook on life has changed," Ganssle said. "She no longer sees this day as being a dreadful one, but more so of happiness, knowing that our brother is really still with us and wants this day and Christmas to be magical."