Although he always wore it, William Gossard never spoke about the attack and his family respected that. Sander Gossard always wondered, however, what his grandfather had seen and experienced on that naval base in Hawaii.
The Navy runs in the family. Both of his grandfathers and an uncle, Stan Gossard, are Navy veterans. Sander Gossard is a 2009 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
The Pearl Harbor ring, however, disappeared sometime after William Gossard's death.
It was thought to be put away with some other belongings at his home in Minneapolis, but when his wife passed away in 2006, the family could not find the ring .
Four years later, a Minneapolis woman named Desiree Penate saw the sun reflect off of something in her yard and decided to take a look. She found a heavy ring inscribed with "Lest we forget Minnesota Pearl Harbor survivors" and the name "William Gossard."
Penate immediately knew she held something of great sentimental significance. She contacted her local media and began to try to track down the family of William Gossard.
Through a Pearl Harbor survivor association, Penate found Stan Gossard and they began to exchange information, verifying Stan's identity as William's son and the rightful owner of the ring.
"We'll never know how it wound up in her yard," Stan's wife, Terry, said. "We're just so grateful it was found by such an honest person."
In another twist of fate, the ring arrived at the Gossard's door on Dec. 7, the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Ever since they first heard of the ring's whereabouts, Stan and Terry knew that they wanted to pass the ring on to Sander. The timing had not come together, however, until Saturday afternoon.
Sander and his wife, Alexis, came down to visit Stan and Terry, thinking that they were going to see the Battle of Aiken.
As soon as they arrived, however, Stan sat them down and started to tell them the story of the ring's recovery and presented it to Sander.
"I pretty much lost my cookies at that point," Sander said of the intensely emotional moment. "My grandfather never spoke of Pearl Harbor, and this was always something that signified all of his service to me."
Just like so many other veterans' families, the Gossards will never know what their father and grandfather saw in the war.
"It's easier to pull their teeth than to get them to talk about it," said Stan of the stoic World War II generation. "This is an honest-to-God heirloom, however, and our family is privileged to have this kind of symbol."
Sander will join his fleet sometime in May on his first assignment, and he said he will always treasure the ring as a link to his own roots.
"At the Naval Academy, they get you to do so much history, it really makes it so meaningful to have this physical connection to my own past and my family," Sander said.
"Family makes it real."
Sander Gossard holds a World War II ring that belonged to his grandfather. The Gossards were recently reunited with the ring after a Minnesota woman found it in her front yard. \nCOREY PERRINE/STAFF
Stan Gossard (left) holds up a portrait of his father, William Gossard, who survived the Pearl Harbor attack. Sander Gossard, Stan's nephew, holds his grandfather's commemorative ring.