Richie Rounds unearthed a 1974 class ring on the shores of the Columbia River last month while fishing. In doing so, he uncovered the passions and angst of the woman who had worn it while coming of age 21 years ago.
The initials “CB” were engraved inside the ring, which also bore the letters “CH” Creston High.
It was easy to track down the owner, Chris Boston, who had lost the ring while water skiing on the river the summer after graduation.
She was one of seven students in the Class of ‘74. Her parents, Vera and Art, still live in the house where she grew up at the southwest corner of town.
For Richie, 15, returning the ring was a simple act to which he gave little thought.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said with a sideways glance and a sheepish smile. “I had no use for it.”
For the ring’s owner, now Christa DiStefano of Spokane, getting the jewelry back stirred emotions that had been dormant since she had left the tiny Lincoln County town shortly after losing the ring.
“I look at it now, and I can’t imagine what made me love it so much,” she said, glancing at her hand where the boxy ring looked awkward alongside diamonds.
When DiStefano put the ring on her finger she felt the satisfaction of the first time she had worn it and the scorn of her family and friends when she had lost it.
It was a combination Christmas-birthday gift from her parents.
“So, it must have been really expensive,” said her mother, Vera. “Everything was expensive,” added her father, Art.
DiStefano loved her ring. It rep resented her years in high school, all of her achievements. She couldn’t bear to take it off.
“I was notorious. I’d lost my class sweater; I lost a coat; I lost a wallet. So I had already done a great deal of damage,” she said.
DiStefano and Richie met last weekend at the annual Creston Days Parade. It was only the second time DiStefano has returned for the community event since her float-riding days as the Creston queen.
Vera and Art Boston were the grand marshals for the 30-minute parade. In DiStefano’s day, it was a three-hour affair, including bands, floats and drill teams from as far away as Asotin, Wash.
Twenty years have taken a toll on Creston as well as its parade, DiStefano said.
The year after she graduated, the sawmill 15 miles away - the main source of employment - shut down for good. It was the last time her father worked.
Homes where DiStefano would sleep over with girlfriends were boarded up and abandoned.
“Sometimes I go down there, and there’s just no energy,” she said. “It’s bleak.”
But not for Richie and his family. Creston is precisely what they were looking for when they relocated from the West Side four years ago. In his old school, the boy was one of thousands. At Creston High, he’s one of three dozen.
“We wanted a better life, and that’s what we got,” said his mother, Kelly Rounds.
While the modern Creston is depressing to DiStefano, the Creston of her youth was stifling.
“I was always a step off, had a different idea, a different way,” she said. “It never accepted me.”
Outspoken and energetic, DiStefano was considered self-centered and egotistical by many others in the town, she said.
She tells this story: As a junior, she was Miss Creston. As a senior, she was a runner-up to the queen. The day after Spokane’s Lilac Festival parade that year, The Spokesman-Review ran her picture on the front page, standing on the corner of the float.
“The queen’s parents thought that somehow we had got ahold of The Spokesman-Review and told them to put my picture on the front page and not hers,” DiStefano said. “Everybody thought: ‘There goes that Chris Boston; she’s done it again.”’
DiStefano may have been Creston’s biggest teen over-achiever. On top of being in the royal court twice, she was homecoming queen, a cheerleader, a basketball player, a band and drill team member. She earned straight A’s from kindergarten to graduation.
“I didn’t have a lot of choice,” she said. “You couldn’t have a band if everybody didn’t do band; you couldn’t have a basketball team unless everybody played.”
It’s different for Richie. With his good looks and easy manner, he always has fit in, his mother said.
He didn’t feel left out as he watched the bulk of his schoolmates participate in the parade.
“I don’t like band, so I don’t take band. I like baseball,” he said, sporting a shiner on one eye, compliments of a line drive.
The Columbia River’s been low behind Grand Coulee Dam, where Richie fishes. When the mill was operating, the water was higher.
The day she lost her ring, DiStefano and her friends dived at least 20 feet to the bottom. Her parents were furious she’d been so reckless and disobedient. The event marred her last months living at home.
It wasn’t until years later - after she had played basketball for Eastern Washington University, married, had children and had become a successful insurance agent - that DiStefano realized there was more to it than simply losing the ring.
Her parents knew they were losing her, that she’d never return. And she never did, except to visit.
“It’s not real down there,” DiStefano said. “Not that that’s bad. My kids are going to a ‘B’ school in Spokane because I want them to have that small-school spirit.
“It sounds like Richie came to the right place. For me, I always knew I was going to leave.”
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