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After 7 decades, POW's prized gold ring comes home

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm •  Published: August 19, 2013
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Upon his return from the war, one of the first things Cox did was to have an exact duplicate made of his prized ring — right down to the inscription. When he died in 1994, the replica passed to his son, David Jr., who wore it until it finally broke in the middle.

Now fast-forward to today and the tiny Bavarian village of Hohenberg, a picturesque collection of stucco and half-timbered houses.

Mark and Mindy Turner moved there about a year ago so he could take a job as an air traffic controller at the nearby U.S. Army installation in Ansbach. Earlier this month, the couple accepted a dinner invitation from their neighbors, Martin and Regina Kiss.

A 64-year-old master church painter by trade, Martin Kiss is also a skilled artist, and after dinner he showed his visitors around his studio. Then he mentioned he had something else he'd like them to see.

Kiss disappeared into the living room and returned with a gold ring — then told a story.

The Kiss family was Hungarian — the name is pronounced "KISH" — and comes from an area in the northern part of present-day Serbia. They ran a small pub near the Danube River.

A Russian soldier on his way home after the war traded the ring to the family — presumably in exchange for room and board, Kiss' grandmother told him. His "Oma" gave it to him when he moved to Germany in 1971 — for luck, or in case he needed some quick cash.

Kiss wore it proudly on his pinkie. He realized it must have come from an American soldier, but didn't know how to trace its owner — especially in a new country that wasn't all that eager to talk about the war.

Worried it might get damaged as he worked, Kiss placed the ring in a corked glass bottle with an old coin and a gold chain.

Still, he never stopped thinking about the original owner — and now, with two computer-savvy Americans in his home, he decided it was time to try and find him.

Mark Turner went online when he got back home. Within 20 minutes, he'd hit pay dirt.

He found a 2005 master's thesis from North Carolina State University. One focus of Norwood McDowell's 219-page paper was the war diary of his wife's grandfather, David C. Cox Sr. — the name on the ring's inscription.

And there, on page 179, was the anecdote about the chocolate bars. After all those years, this epic ring cycle had ended within a two-hour drive of where it began.

"It just seemed like it couldn't be true," says Turner.

Turner emailed McDowell a photograph of the ring and its inscription.

"That's it for sure," an ecstatic David Cox replied when McDowell forwarded the picture.

"Well, praise the Lord!" Mindy Turner wrote back. "We are so excited for your family!"

After a few more emails and phone calls, the ring was on its way to the United States.

Cradling it in his hand after opening the package Friday, the pilot's son was struck by the original's condition, compared to its replacement. His sister, Joy Wagner, walked over and took the ring in her hands.

"Gosh, it's beautiful," she said as tears welled in her eyes. "Oh, that's so special."

David Cox said holding the ring gave him goose bumps.

"I feel his presence," he said of his father. "I wish he was here."

Kiss — whose own grandfather spent several years in a Soviet camp during and after the war — said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that his only regret is that David Cox Sr. and his grandmother weren't alive to share the "happy ending."

Refusing to accept even reimbursement for the shipping, he added, "You know the old saying: 'It's better to give than to receive.'"

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Follow Breed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AllenGBreed .