FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – It reaches depths of roughly 123 feet in some parts, making it the deepest natural lake in Indiana.
Finding anything lost in Tippecanoe Lake, formed from the receding glaciers in what is now Kosciusko County thousands upon thousands of years ago, presents a very unique – and oftentimes futile – challenge.
Even if you’re off by the boat docks where people have built homes, the water goes from shallow to seven feet to more than 15 feet deep fast.
So when Diana Rockey lost her mother’s wedding ring in the lake earlier this month, not many expected it would be found – even after she and her daughter hired a scuba diver to help in its recovery.
And nobody could’ve guessed their search would unearth a Bishop Dwenger High School class ring that had been sitting in the depths of that lake for more than a half-century.
This is the tale of two rings.
One was thought to be lost to the sands of time by a then teenage boy named Mike Usina one summer day back in 1971; the other Diana Rockey had pined for from her mother for years upon years, only to have it slip from her finger one summer day in 2022.
And thanks to a bit of luck – and a lot of serendipity – both as of Friday are back with their rightful owners.
“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Lamar Chupp, the scuba diver who found both rings sitting within 10 feet of each other under the waters of “Lake Tippy.”
The wedding ring
Since Diana Rockey’s mother divorced her father about 40 years ago, she had no idea why her daughter would want her old wedding ring.
But Rockey was persistent, she said. For whatever reason, she badly wanted that ring, if for nothing else than for sentimental reasons. She asked for years, and for years her mother would not hand it over.
Instead, Rockey’s mother kept it in a box of gold she planned to melt down.
Then one day when Rockey visited, her mother brought out the ring.
“My mother has tiny fingers, so I put it on my pinky,” Rockey said. “I wore it for nine days and it never came off.”
Rockey’s home is on East Forest Glen Avenue in Kosciusko County, about an hour northwest of Fort Wayne, which lines part of Tippecanoe Lake. Her family is very involved with lake activities, and that includes the Lake Tippecanoe Property Owners’ annual Flotilla celebration held every Fourth of July weekend.
Basically, residents gather to see floats created by other residents as they wind their way around the lake.
One well-known family throws T-shirts from their float every year, though you sometimes have to swim to get one, Rockey said. On July 2, when she saw a T-shirt floating near her spot during the Flotilla celebration, she knew she had to jump in the water.
“I couldn’t give up the T-shirt,” Rockey said. “So I went in and swam.”
About 20 minutes later, sitting on a lounge chair, she glanced at her hand.
Her mother’s wedding ring was gone.
“I was sick to my stomach,” Rockey said. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to find it. I was in deep amongst the weeds. It was gone.”
About a week later, she and her daughter were sipping wine along the Lake. Rockey told her daughter about the lost ring, the one she had spoken about for years, and 24-year-old Kirsten Rockey would not accept that it would truly be gone forever.
“I thought, ‘Okay, I can swim, maybe I can go down and get it,'” Kirsten Rockey said. “The weeds were seven-feet high, though. I couldn’t get through them snorkeling.”
That’s when Kirsten started calling dive shops, which led her to Lamar Chupp.
Chupp, who lives near Goshen, has been scuba diving for about nine years – as a hobby.
But, as part of that hobby, he has helped people find items lost in lakes, and he was happy to help, he said.
This past Saturday, he brought his gear to the area where Diana Rockey lost the ring, and then disappeared under the water for about an hour and a half.
When he emerged, he held up her wedding ring.
“We were like, ‘Wow, he found the ring!'” Diana Rockey said.
Then Chupp walked toward the shore holding something else.
“I also found this,” he said.
In his hand he had another ring.
The Class Ring
Mike Usina was a bag boy.
During junior and senior years of high school, he worked at one of the old Maloley’s grocery stores bagging up goods for about $1.50 an hour, he said. He did this at the start of college, too, after he graduated from Bishop Dwenger in 1972.
In 1971, he shelled out between $75 to $100 or so for a class ring. Rings were given to all juniors who purchased them before that summer, he said. If you bought a ring, you had it heading in to your senior year.
“For me, that represented about a month’s worth of effort,” Usina said. “I just wanted a memento of high school, besides a diploma, and I worked hard for that ring.”
Usina spent many a summer day along lakes in Indiana. He doesn’t remember the exact moment he lost the ring, but figures it was at some point water skiing on Tippecanoe Lake. He probably took a fall while being pulled behind a boat, but it’s impossible to remember exactly.
He does remember finally noticing he no longer had his ring on his finger.
“I remember being very disappointed,” he said. “I had a bit of an attitude as I recall, because I bought that for myself. I remember saying I wouldn’t give it to a girlfriend or anything, and as it is I didn’t get a chance to give it to a girlfriend as I didn’t have it very long.”
The years went by, and Usina became involved in the boat business. He eventually moved to St. Augustine, Florida, though he kept roots here in Fort Wayne through family and visited often. He even planned to come to town this very weekend.
Saturday is his class’s 50th reunion.
It was almost apropos that he recently received a random Facebook message from a complete stranger named Diana Rockey as the weekend neared.
The class ring Lamar Chupp came out of the water with needed very little cleaning.
The fact that it was from 1972 and belonged to someone from Bishop Dwenger were unmistakable. So, too, were the initials “MDU” engraved on the inside of the ring.
At first, Rockey thought it might belong to someone she knew. Her family does tend to throw large parties, she said, complete with live music. Someone probably lost the ring at one of those, she thought.
“We were going to figure out who this belonged to,” Rockey said.
She made a Facebook post on the Friends of Lake Tippecanoe page which read:
“FOUND!! Gentleman’s class ring between Governer’s Point and Silver Point. It’s been at the bottom of the lake for awhile — anyone lose one a few years ago?? Give me the school and year and I’d love to return it to it’s owner.”
The post began to spread, and it began to be shared.
Meanwhile, Rockey and her daughter began combing through old yearbooks. Then they went to the Bishop Dwenger alumni page, and that’s where they found the name of one Mike D. Usina. Rockey found a Mike Usina on Facebook, and she sent a message asking if he ever lost his class ring.
“I responded with, ‘Actually, yes I did,'” Usina said.
Friday, Diana Rockey and Usina met in the lobby of the downtown Courtyard by Mariott as old Bishop Dwenger classmates began arriving into town.
In a brief moment in front of television cameras and a newspaper reporter, Rockey handed over Usina’s old ring in a jewelry box she had been keeping it in since it was discovered.
“You’re not going to lose it this time, right?” she joked to Usina.
It makes the 50th reunion Usina is attending this weekend a little sweeter.
“The sentiment is more associated with it because it’s our 50th high school reunion,” he said. “For all this to occur around our 50th, it’s significant in a sentimental way.”
As for Rockey, the little dip into the old waters of Tippecanoe Lake, which have probably swallowed countless trinkets and bracelets or watches and other rings throughout the last however many years, taught her at least one valuable lesson.
Her mother’s ring is now kept on a necklace around her neck.