Lost medal in De Pere returned after 37 years

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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) -- Over the past six months, St. Norbert College Media relations Director Mike Counter, an avid metal detector, has found dozens of old coins, rings, watches and other items on the grounds of the oldest abbey in the country.

Counter's finds will be part of an art exhibit celebrating the Norbertine order's upcoming 900th anniversary.

But now, one of those lost treasures is back in the hands of its owner.

Father Tim Shillcox and Deacon Dave Parker have a history together at St. Norbert Abbey.

In August 1981, they entered the order to become priests, and two days after arriving they were on the field playing football.

"I went back to my room when we were done ... and my medal was gone, was like gol dang-it, I lost my medal, so I went back out on the football field and scoured back and forth and didn't find anything," recalls Parker, who now lives in Pulaski.

"I just remember thinking that it was sad at the time that a momento Dave's family gave him when he entered got lost, that someday that's got to be found," adds Father Shillcox.

Nearly 40 years later, the medal would be found by Mike Counter and his metal detector.

Father Shillcox saw a story on WBAY about Counter's treasure quest and reached out to his old classmate who'd left the order after three months, got married and eventually became a deacon.

"I messaged Dave and Denise over Facebook and said take a look at that picture, is that your medal?," says Father Shillcox.

Sure enough, it was.

"A four-way medal that Catholics wear, it reminds us of Jesus Christ and the salvation events," describes Parker.

Friday at the Abbey, a classmate reunion to reunite Parker with his medal.

"Very sentimental, yeah it's pretty cool," says Parker accepting the medal from Counter.

"It's not often when you find things that you can actually return it to the person that lost it because most things don't have initials or a name on them and in this case to have Father Shillcox memory, remember Dave lost the medal 37 years ago and to be able to return it to him is just a great feeling," says Counter.

Just in time for his knee surgery that afternoon, ironically from the wear and tear of playing football years ago, Parker will have his medal, and he promises to hold on tight this time.

"I won't lose it again. I'm not quite as active as I used to be," says Parker with a chuckle.