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Uncle Bud's ring

Uncle Bud's ring

I never really knew if my Aunt Nancy was serious, or just eternally hopeful.

We would arrive at her cottage with my Dad in the family seaplane in the early 1970s. My brothers and I would don our skin diving masks and prepare to explore the rather boring, all sand, lake bottom in front of the house. We three little boys would stand at the end of the chain of plywood sections, turn our backs to the lake, hold on to our masks -- doing our best Jacques Cousteau impersonations -- and ‘sit’ into the clear water, bums first. Just before our feet left the edge, Aunt Nancy would yell out: “Look for Uncle Bud’s ring!”

[screenshot of Bud Thomas athletics page]

We knew that Uncle Bud’s ring had been lost off the end of this dock, in about 15 feet of water, some years ago, by his grandson, whom we had never met. We didn’t even know who Uncle Bud was. He was not our uncle, after all. He was our Aunt Nancy’s uncle. An aunt’s uncle, a distant relative, long deceased, who would nevertheless forever have a connection with Danford Lake, north of Ottawa, because his grandson had lost his “important” ring there in 1971, more than a decade after his death.

Once in the water, the notion of finding a ring that had been missing for years seemed even more absurd, even for children who hoped treasure could be found anywhere. A number of winters had come and gone since the fateful day when the ring had slipped off a finger and buried itself in the sand, most certainly never to be seen again.

Fall freeze-ups and spring melts had run their course. And while every summer dive that my brothers and I took revealed only the same boring sandy expanse, even we kids knew that a lot had happened on the bottom of this lake, at the end of this dock, over the years. None of it bode well for finding a ring lost in the deep sandy bottom so long ago.

And then it was found! In 2003, more than thirty years after it had been lost, my cousin noticed something shiny on the bottom of the lake at the end of the dock. She dove down, picked it up, and, sure enough, it was Uncle Bud’s ring.

Aunt Nancy, who is now 85, and I were out playing golf recently and she suggested that I write up the story of the ring for the Queen’s Alumni Review. The magically recovered ring, it turns out, is as much about Queen’s as it is about Uncle Bud.

It’s a lot faster finding information about Bud Thomas today on the internet than it was finding his ring over thirty years of searching. Simply Google “E.A. Bud Thomas Queen's” and the first page that comes up is: “Queen’s Football Media Guide”. There he is, a member of the Queen’s Football Hall of Fame. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Uncle Bud played for Queen’s from 1922 through 1925, including as a member of the team that won the Grey Cup. “From Ottawa, [E.A. ‘Bud’ Thomas], was known as ‘one of the most jarring tacklers… who could shake a man until his teeth rattled.’ Also an outstanding basketball and tennis player, he was invited to the 1922 Davis Cup team but chose to play football at Queen’s. He has been called the greatest outside wing of his decade.”

According to Wikipedia: “The 11th Grey Cup was played on December 1, 1923, before 8,629 fans at Varsity Stadium at Toronto. Queen's University shut out the Regina Rugby Club 54 to 0. This is the longest Grey Cup victory margin to this date.”

So, the ring that sat on the bottom of Danford Lake for more than 30 years wasn’t just any old ring. It was a Queen’s ring that is part of my family’s, and the University’s, history. I was just a little boy when Uncle Bud died in 1960, and I was a grown man with three children by the time the ring was found. As a proud Queen’s alumnus and the father of a member of the Class of 2018, I’m very happy to have had this opportunity to learn about Uncle Bud, and to be able to report that his Queen’s ring is safely back with the family.

Thanks, Aunt Nancy, for always reminding us to “look for Uncle Bud’s ring!”