Winder man finds bracelet lost decades ago

When Matt Kwiatkowski fires up his trusty metal detector, he hopes to find something good.

For the past three years he’s been hunting around Barrow County for odds and ends, but recently he stumbled across something quite valuable: a tiny bracelet inscribed with the name Billy Sheridan.

Kwiatkowski found the bracelet on the baseball field at what is now Russell Middle School on Jan. 23. That location was once the county’s school for grades 1 – 12 and it is believed to have been an all-girl’s school at one time, he said.

“I knew the fire department building was named after a Billy Sheridan, but I didn’t put two and two together until I got home,” Kwiatkowski said. “He was a big deal in this town, and I knew if he had family still here, they might like to have it back.”

He took the bracelet home and cleaned it up. He also looked up Sheridan on the Internet and found out the jewelry likely belonged to the same Billy Sheridan whose name was on the fire department headquarters.

James William Sheridan died in 2006 and was a councilman in Winder for 36 years. He also served on a number of committees, including the city’s fire committee, according to a Winder Fire Department newsletter.

Kwiatkowski said he posted his find on a local website the next day, hoping someone in Sheridan’s family would contact him. It took about two hours to get a reply, he said.

“One of his grandsons emailed me,” Kwiatkowski said. “We finally talked and set up a time to meet.”

Meanwhile, the Sheridan family was abuzz with excitement, said his daughter Darenda “DJ” Kinney, who still lives in Winder.

“I was very surprised to hear the news from Matt and at the same time so many thoughts were going through my mind,” she wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I just couldn’t wait to get it into my hands! I called my brother Michael Sheridan and told him the story and we were meeting up with Matt on (Jan. 26) and come with us.”

Kwiatkowski said Kinney told him her father loved baseball as a kid and spent a lot of time playing on the school’s ball field.

“So it made sense that he might have lost the bracelet there,” he said.

Kwiatkowski said he was more than happy to return the bracelet to Sheridan’s family.

“The best thing about it was, it was something they didn’t even know he’d lost,” he said. “And from the size of it, we think it is something he might have worn in elementary school, which means it’s been in the ground since at least 1955.”

Once she got the bracelet, Kinney said she felt reconnected with her father.

“I could really feel my daddy looking down and smiling saying I’m still with you,” she said.