Before placing her father's ring into the crucible at the 13th Annual West Point Class Ring Memorial Melt held on March 4, 2013, at the Pease & Curren refinery in Warwick, Rhode Island, Catherine Downing, daughter of Colonel John P. Downing Jr. '45, told class officers present from the Class of 2014: "In ancient times, people believed that the blood that flowed from one's ring finger went straight to the heart. I know that the values my dad learned at West Point -- Duty, Honor, Country -- went straight to his heart. I hope for you cadets that my dad's heart's blood will strengthen you in your future." In fact, the strength coming from Colonel Downing's ring and the rings of 36 other graduates donated is making an impact on the cadets now.
Cadet Jeff Ferebee, President of the Class of 2014, noted that a strong feeling "swept over" him at the Ring Melt. "This event showed a special side of the West Point family paradigm," he said, "a group of those who have lived the dream and continue to live the dream by giving to us, the ones joining that family--the Class of 2014 is indebted to the Association of Graduates and the donors who made this event possible."
Family figured prominently in this year's Ring Melt. This year's ceremony saw the most family members of donors in attendance, including Colonel Richard Norton and his son Tim, who placed their uncle's ring, Colonel Robert McCord '47, into the crucible. Mr. Jake Ruppert '76 was also on hand to donate his own ring, wanting its gold to be part of the ring of his nephew, who is a member of the Class of 2014. Another living donor, Colonel (Ret) Kenneth Webber Jr. '48, divided his ring in two: half was donated last year so that its gold could be part of his granddaughter's class ring, Candace Webber '13, and this year his grandson, Cadet Kenneth Webber '14, and his son, Lieutenant Colonel (Ret) Kurt Webber '79, placed the other half into the crucible.
The most rings in this year's program came from the Class of 1964, the 50-Year Affiliation Class to that of 2014. Before placing the ring of her husband, Colonel Leon Yourtee III '64, into the crucible, his widow, Mrs. Roberta Yourtee, foretold of the familial bonds awaiting the cadets as members of the Long Gray Line. "The greatest gift my husband left me was the Class of 1964," she said.
The rings in the crucible, along with gold shavings taken from all Ring Melt ceremonies dating from the inaugural one in 2001 and now representing 293 rings, were melted in a 2,300-degree furnace and poured into a mold to form a solid gold bar weighing nearly two pounds. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the bar was turned over to Jayne Roland, a representative from Balfour, the jeweler contracted with manufacturing the rings that will be handed out to the Class of 2014 during Ring Weekend in August.
Upon inspecting the shiny new rings on their fingers, may the lessons and values contained in the gold reach the cadets' hearts and may the gold reflect the faces of the Long Gray Line family to which they now rightly belong.