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The Incredible Odyssey of The Gold Ring From Mayor Frank Hague

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Teddy Fleming At The Time Of The Great War
Jersey City
At City Hall 58 years ago, a Jersey City official presented a gold ring to a Hudson County official. It was inscribed: "From Mayor Frank Hague to Sheriff Teddy Fleming 1945."

On Monday, December 14, 1998 the gold ring made a return visit to City Hall, on the finger of Sheriff Fleming's son, Thomas, the nationally known historian and novelist, who lost the ring 31 years ago on a battlefield in France -- but got it back Thanksgiving Day, 1998, thanks in large measure to then Mayor Bret Schundler's role as a connecting link.

The story goes back to Teddy Fleming, who served with the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I and saw action with the 78th Division's "Lost Battalion" in the Argonne sector where he won a battlefield commission. (The doughboys' exploits are included in Tom's book, Over There.) On his return to Jersey City, Lt. Teddy Fleming became active in politics, rose to the rank of ward leader under Hague and finally was appointed county sheriff.

Mayor Frank Hague

Verdun

The Exact Spot Where The Ring Was Lost!
Shortly before his death, Teddy passed the ring Hague gave him on to Tom. In 1968, observing the 50th anniversary of his father's combat duty in France, Tom visited the Argonne and was collecting data there for an article to appear in American Heritage magazine. While climbing a steep hill composed mainly of loose shale, he lost his footing and began sliding down the hill on his stomach. As he was clutching at the earth to stop the sliding, the ring came off his finger and was buried somewhere under tons of rock and dirt. A long search found nothing.

Seventeen years later, in 1985, Gil Malmasson, a young French photographer whose hobby is metal-detecting, was exploring an Argonne hillside when his detector beeped a discovery. Malmasson dug and came up with the Fleming ring. In an effort to locate the owner or his family, Malmasson contacted the American Embassy in Paris, but nobody there ever heard of Hague or Fleming. Same thing at the American headquarters in Berlin where Malmasson served his year's French military duty.

Thirteen more years went by. Finally, just a few weeks ago, while browsing the Internet, Malmasson came across a Jersey City Web Site, where he spotted a mention of "Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague," and he promptly sent an e-mail message to "Mayor of Jersey City," which, of course, landed on then Mayor Bret Schundler's desk. Fleming was located within hours.

On Novenber 23, Fleming, still overwhelmed by the news, and his wife, Alice, also a writer, flew to Paris and met Malmasson, who put the ring back on Fleming's finger. They toured the Argonne and Malmasson took pictures of Tom and Alice at the Lost Battalion monument there. Fleming and Gil were on French national television and the story was featured on the front pages of leading dailies. The visitors were dinner guests of French Senator Paul Loridant at Luxembourg Palace and Fleming was honored with the medal of the Senate by Loridant. Fleming presented the senator with a copy of Over There.

"It is a pleasure to extend real hometown greetings to Tom Fleming," Mayor Schundler said. "The story of the ring that began its journey here at City Hall is alone a reason for celebration, but more importantly it gives us an opportunity to express our enormous debt of gratitude to a native son for his contributions to American literature, especially through his splendid accounts of our nation's history and its people. Through his writing he has helped millions of Americans of all ages learn more about our nation's greatness," Schundler added.

Mayor Schundler formally welcomed Fleming on December 14, 1998. A reception was held in in the City Council Chambers in honor of the Jersey City-born historian-author whose Liberty! The American Revolution is among the latest of his 53 books and already a classic. There was a delegation from St. Peter's Prep, where Fleming was a member of the Class of '45, the year Hague gave Teddy Fleming the ring.

Guests Of French Senator Paul Loridant At Luxembourg Palace

Tom Fleming, who now lives in New York, was busy on his day in Jersey City. Besides greeting old friends at City Hall, he addressed 8th grade pupils at St. Patrick's, his alma mater, at the invitation of Sister Maeve; he stopped by St. Peter's Prep, and he visited Holy Cross Cemetery to wish Dad a "Happy Birthday!" It would be his 110th.

Gil Malmasson, Tom Fleming, and Alice Fleming
Gil Malmasson And Tom Fleming With The Ring

This e-mail started it all!

From: "Gil MALMASSON"
Subject: Quest from France

Hi,
My name is Gil Malmasson. I'm a 31 years old french who live in the suburb of Paris.I work as a professional photographer but one of my best hobby is metal detecting.
A few years ago, I was searching with my metal detector in the east part of France not far from a very small american monument in memory of 1ww american soldiers who fighted in this area in 1918, when I suddenly found a gold ring probably lost by a tourist visiting this site.
This ring is engraved and I'm sure that you could possibly help me to find the owner or his children in order to give it back.
It's written : "FROM MAYOR FRANK HAGUE TO SHERIFF TEDDY FLEMING 1945"
made research thank's to internet and I found the page you wrote about the mayor Frank HAGUE.
The original owner of the ring is Sheriff Teddy Fleming and he received it from Frank Hague in 1945.
Was Teddy Fleming sheriff in Jersey city in 1945 or in the area? Is he still alive?Do he or his children remind this ring ?
I hope my quest will interest you and that you could help me resolving it. Mail me back as soon as possible.
I thank you very much for your cooperation.

Best regards,

Gil MALMASSON

Douaumont

Photos courtesy of Gil Malmasson

More About Thomas Fleming

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