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Love & Marriage

Love & Marriage

A Ring-ing Gesture

In this Valentine’s Day feature, men get down on one knee to tell their funny and ‘engaging’ stories of betrothal.

By Gerald Korson

Asking a woman for her hand in marriage ranks among the most nerve-wracking moments in a man’s life. Should he “pop the question” before he pops the champagne, or after? Or should there be champagne at all? Should he prepare an eloquent proposal at the risk of sounding corny, or should he just come out and ask?

In the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day, a holy day for lovers, Fathers for Good asked a number of men – from the newly engaged to those married 40 or more years – to share their unusual engagement stories. Here is a selection of these life-altering stories.

An oversized box

Tim and Cynthia Heller actually saw fireworks when first they met — at a Fourth of July concert in Omaha, Neb. Yet it took Tim more than three years to get the stars out of his eyes and propose to her on Christmas Eve 1995.


The Heller Family

“I had purchased the ring in October,” he recalled. “When I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she said, ‘You know what I want!’ I told her it wasn’t likely to happen, but maybe for her birthday next year.”

Tim had an idea. He obtained a large, empty television box from a local electronics store and glued bricks on the inside bottom so it would be weighted like a TV. He filled the rest of the box with foam packing material and covered it all with a piece of velvet. He placed the ring box atop the velvet along with a framed quote from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, on the enduring nature of love.

“I wrapped the entire package up and put it in my car,” Tim recalled. “On Christmas Eve, I was at her house, and she gave me an early gift before we were to go to my family’s home. I asked her if she wanted her gift now or did she want to wait until we got to my parent’s, knowing this was like putting an open box of chocolates on the table. She, of course, said ‘Yes!’ So, I brought in the large box and put it on her couch. Bewildered, she opened the box and saw the framed quote. She didn’t even see the small ring box underneath it yet.

“I reached over, picked up the box, and got down on one knee. I barely got to say, ‘Will you...’ when I was tackled and kissed! I asked, ‘Does this mean yes?’ She replied, ‘Oh my, yes!’”

On a wing and a prayer

Ryan and Karen Patterson of Mason, Ohio, also saw fireworks on a very clear night when he, a pilot, asked her to be his co-pilot through life.
“On New Year’s Eve 1999, I took Karen up for a night flight, explaining that the fireworks would be quite the spectacle this year due to the many planned fireworks displays on the Ohio River,” Ryan said.


Ryan and Karen Patterson

“At the stroke of midnight, my hunch was validated when it seemed the entire horizon for as far as the eye could see lit up in unison to celebrate the dawn of a new century. We had never seen anything like it in all our years; it was indeed amazing.”

Ryan took that opportunity to ask his beloved for her hand. “Karen was a bit surprised that evening, which may have led to the extra hour of flying around while she worked up her response,” he said. “I think she was just testing my jovial threat of not landing!”

A sacred bond

Popping the question can involve a simple gesture or an elaborate ruse. One who chose the latter path was Nicholas Ferreira, who took his bride-to-be on a kind of religious pilgrimage in Canada a few days after Christmas just last year.

After a day of taking in the beautiful countryside along the St. Lawrence River in Ontario, Nicholas and girlfriend, Barbara-Ann Ramsbotham, arrived to visit friends and stay in the guest house at the seminary in Cornwall where he was once a priesthood candidate.


Nicholas Ferreira and Barbara-Ann Ramsbotham

There was no vacancy at the guest house, however, nor at the local bed and breakfast, so the couple headed toward the home of one of Nicholas’ friends in Montreal. Learning via cell phone that his friend also had a full house, Barbara-Ann suggested they drive a mere 50 miles north to Trois-Riviere, site of Our Lady of the Cape Shrine, a place she had visited numerous times, and stay at a particular hotel there which held many of her fondest memories.

Following a night’s sleep in their separate rooms, the couple attended morning Mass at the shrine chapel, after which Nicholas eloquently proposed to Barbara-Ann in front of the altar, slipping a diamond ring on her finger with her consent. With a hidden video camera rolling, together they read an engagement prayer and received a blessing from the shrine’s priest, whom Nicholas had tipped off in French a few minutes earlier. The morning was topped off back at the hotel with breakfast at a table adorned with roses, champagne, glasses, and a heart shaped out of rose petals.

Nicholas, it turned out, had preplanned every step along this journey.

“I cannot begin to imagine the endless planning that Nicholas put into making this weekend so special,” Barbara-Ann says as she retells the story in detail on her Facebook page. “He thought of the smallest details and most romantic gestures. He researched and organized, drove endless hours, paid for lots of gas all to get me to my favorite shrine for the proposal. I had always told him I would love to get married in this little chapel and since the distance made it impossible, he allowed me to have this very special memory there in its place.”

Roadside Proposal

In contrast, utter spontaneity worked for Ron Baade, who was a 23-year-old member of the Pennsylvania State Police when he decided to propose to Pam in the summer of 1982, while they motored along I-83 in York County.


Ron and Pam Baade

“At the interchange formerly known as Exit 4, I pulled the car onto the shoulder of the interstate,” Ron explained. “I leaned over, kissed her, and asked her to marry me. No ring.  No bended knee, just 55 mile-per-hour traffic flying by, unconcerned about our situation. Although not very romantic, she said yes.”

Now residing in Mifflin, Pa., the Baades have been blessed with three children and will celebrate their silver anniversary on July 28 of this year.

They came out of nowhere…

Sometimes something totally unexpected happens and changes a proposal for the better. That was the experience of Austin Ruse when he asked his wife, Cathy, to marry him on “a cold and wet December day” at a bridge in New York’s Central Park.

“I got her there under protestation. I told her, ‘I have something to talk to you about.’ She got all nervous. I proposed to her, and she cried and said yes,” Austin recalled. That’s when the scene changed.

“The park was largely deserted. But as I whipped out the ring, what can only be described as a gang of teenagers came out of the woods. They came across the bridge right toward us. . . .

“They walked past, stopped nearby, turned around in a semi-circle, and began to sing us a love song in Old English,” he recounted. “They were a choir who just happened along precisely at that moment and recognized what we were doing. They finished, gave us a round of applause, and floated away.”

The couple met through their pro-life work and continue their witness today. Austin is the president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, which monitors the United Nations on life issues, and Cathy, a former spokesman for the U.S. bishops, is a senior legal fellow at the Family Research Institute and cares for their two young daughters.

Courtside courtship

Some proposals are planned public events, when the man risks embarrassment before a large crowd. That was the case with Scott Gulbransen, who popped the question two days before Christmas to his girlfriend Elie during a timeout at a 1995 basketball game between UNLV and UCLA. His Runnin’ Rebels lost that night 89-82, but Scott came out a winner.

Gulbransen had the home-court advantage, one might say. As a media relations assistant for UNLV’s athletic department, he was able to get courtside press-box seats and arrange to have the big moment videotaped by the in-house camera crew and broadcast live on the scoreboard. On cue, he coolly got down on one knee and flashed the ring to his beloved Elie, whose reaction was face-savingly affirmative.

The game was also telecast nationally on a cable network, so his proposal was shown again that evening on ESPN and on local news stations. It is also enshrined as a YouTube video.

“I wanted to really take her by surprise,” Scott said. “We had been dating for two-and-a-half years, and I had toyed with a ‘normal’ romantic proposal, but I have a bit of an eye for showmanship and thought the game would be a great way for me to do it very publicly.”

He said he had considered other options, such as proposing during a helicopter ride or at the top of the Stratosphere Tower. “I was, and still am, deeply in love with my wife, and I wanted the world to know I found the right woman,” he explained.

Today, Scott and Elie Gulbransen, now of Carlsbad, Calif., have been married for almost 13 years and have three children.

A Secret Shared

In 1990, Peter Lupkowski had been dating Debbie for six years when he finally decided to make his move. He bought a ring, then took several days to decide how to go about the proposal. When his parents and Debbie mother all expressed interest in attending a revue being staged by a local hospital, Peter decided the moment had come. He bought the tickets and invited the parents along.

During the program, as a friend onstage sang “Stormy Weather,” Peter handed Debbie the ring and asked her to marry him. “She cried, put it on and showed her mother,” he said. “It was only at that point that it occurred to her to say yes. Then I got my parents’ attention and showed them the ring, too.”


Peter and Deb Luptowski

Peter may not have been quite as sly as he thought at the time. When interviewed for this story, Debbie said that she knew the proposal was coming.

“For the last 18-plus years, I have kept a secret from my husband,” she revealed. “I actually did know about the ring before he proposed to me. He left the ring sitting on his stereo in a small envelope. I happened upon it the week before he asked me to marry him. I just didn’t know when he would ask. I finally told him about this last night. He was stunned that I could keep a secret that long.”

Secret or not, Peter joked that although it was during “Stormy Weather” that he proposed, their marriage “has been pretty smooth sailing during the last 17 years.”

Gerald Korson is a veteran journalist who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind., with his wife of 24 years and their 11 children. His own engagement story is too complicated to include in this story.