When Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead, Fla., in August 1992, it destroyed an estimated 63,000 homes, damaged another 101,000 others, and left roughly 75,000 people homeless.
Among those was Blair Franklyn Kelly II ’49 and his family. According to his son, Blair III, everything, other than what the family quickly grabbed before they fled, was lost. One of the items lost was Kelly’s Culver ring.
“The family residence was totally destroyed by Hurricane Andrew,” Kelly’s son wrote in an email. “My father and family then relocated to Orlando, and then to the Fort Myers area.” His father passed away on Oct. 28, 2014.
The Culver ring was long forgotten until Feb. 5 when Rebecca Burney of Decatur, Ala., contacted the Culver Alumni Office. She was looking for the owner or his relatives of a 1949 Culver class ring with the initials BFK. Her stepfather, Travis ‘Shorty’ Tyree, had found it in the Homestead area while restoring gas lines for Southeast Corrosion and Engineering. She also posted a photo on Facebook asking for assistance, which set off a flurry of shares and comments among the Culver Facebook community.
Tyree evidently brought the ring home, placed it in a small, cheap cookie tin for safe-keeping, then forgot about it. He passed away Jan. 15, 2010. Burney found the cookie tin when she recently moved her 83-year-old mother, Patricia, to live with her. And while Patricia Tyree is forgetful these days, Burney’s email said, she remembers the story behind the ring because of the hurricane connection.
Working off the information Burney supplied, Ann Maurer SS’72 of the Alumni Office quickly narrowed the owner down to Kelly. But the trail started to fade because there were no known addresses for his sons.
But Kelly had an older brother, Leonard, who graduated in 1938. So Maurer started researching his family’s history. That led her to W.H. Kelly Monuments, of Altoona, Pa. Leonard’s son, Todd, was the owner up to 2011. However, Maurer said, the new owners had stayed in contact with him and provided a telephone number.
She eventually made contact with Todd, who relayed the message to his cousin, Blair Franklyn Kelly III. Blair said he also recently heard from another cousin who had seen the photo of the ring posted on Ancestry.com and Facebook.
Maurer put Kelly in contact with Burney. And arrangements have been made to ship the ring back to the family. Kelly asked Burney to send it to his brother, Stephen, who lives in Florida. Their father stayed with Stephen until his death, so Blair thought it was fitting that he become the next “holder of the ring.”
Plus, Blair already has his piece of Culver memorabilia, his father’s wool Culver blanket, which is “a prized possession of mine.” His father gave it to him when he went to college and he uses it to this day.
A side note: As a member of the Band, Blair Kelly II played for Maurer’s grandfather, Edward Payson ’22. Payson was the band director during the time Kelly and his brother Leonard attended Culver Military Academy.