Vickroy: A surprise engagement, a chance encounter and a whole bunch of witnesses
BY DONNA VICKROY firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @dvickroy August 19, 2013 6:58PM
Updated: September 21, 2013 6:13AM
It was a perfect evening. Calm, clear skies. A soft, silky breeze. A bright moon beaming.
It was a night custom made for long walks in the park, for listening to Frank Sinatra or Van Morrison. It was a night designed for romance.
In short, it was as if Mother Nature had gotten Adam Gulden’s memo and pulled out all the stops.
I was walking the dog on my usual route along 179th Street in Tinley Park just as the sun was setting over a lush wetlands area. It was a bit later than our usual time, but in a dog’s world, late always is better than never. I was on the return trip when my husband, having finished his phone call, caught up to us and I turned off my iPod, which had been belting out “Summer Wind” and “Into the Mystic.”
We were closing in on the entrance to a nearby nature path when I spied them — three young adults who just seemed aglow with good news.
I’d never seen them before even though I would find out later that we all travel the same path in town quite regularly. Even serendipity was on high alert this night.
They had just emerged from the wooden plank path that winds through a wetlands area. They were carrying a vase full of roses, a table and what looked like a bottle of champagne.
“Did you guys just get engaged?” I said. I couldn’t help myself, even though a voice inside me whispered, “Don’t embarrass them. What if they didn’t?”
But almost immediately, they smiled wide grins and she shouted, “Yes, yes.”
Stephanie Brescia, too, thought it was a nice night for a ride. So when her boyfriend of 31/2 years invited her to pedal along while he jogged down 179th Street, she said, “Sure.”
“It was a natural, normal thing for us to do on a nice night,” said Stephanie, who is a business manager for a prescription safety glasses company. “We do that kind of thing all the time.”
But when Adam, a certified public accountant, suggested they take a slight detour, down this narrow, winding path that led to Town Pointe Park, she thought it odd, but only for a second.
Stephanie and Adam met while they were honors biology students at Andrew High School. Way back then, Stephanie thought her lab partner was a nice guy. She graduated in ’04 and he the following year. But after high school, they lost touch.
She went on to Marquette University in Milwaukee and then to St. Xavier for her master’s degree. Adam studied accounting at DePaul University. He is earning a master’s in taxation.
In 2010, the two were reintroduced through their mutual friend, Ryan Truesdale, also an Andrew grad.
“We all met for pizza at Sanfratello’s one night, and Adam and I hit it off immediately,” Stephanie said. They started dating and realized they shared many of the same interests: biking, running, playing tennis and cooking.
So a typical Friday night usually included one of those activities.
The planked path bridges a quiet, marshy area, beginning at 179th Street and ending at a paved path that leads to a park and soccer field on Sippel Drive.
Earlier that evening, Adam and Ryan had visited the area and set the scene. They’d lined signs along the paved path, cards asking, “Steph.” “Will.” “You.” “Marry.” “Me.” “?” Then they sprinkled the path with rose petals and set up luminaries to light the way to a gazebo at the end.
Inside the gazebo they set up a small table which held the roses, wine glasses, and what, in reality, was a bottle of grape juice. Adam wasn’t sure if he could bring champagne into the park.
One thing they hadn’t considered when laying out their plan was that kids might actually be playing in the park at the time.
Afterward, Stephanie said, the two guys told her they were inundated with questions from a group of youngsters who were intrigued by the goings-on.
At one point, Ryan told the kids, most of whom looked to be about 10, that Adam was going to propose to his girlfriend. One kid asked what that meant. When the guys explained it, the kids asked if they could watch. Then, while Adam went to retrieve Stephanie, the kids texted their friends.
By the time Stephanie pedaled onto the path, with Adam running at her side, there were so many kids, she could barely see the signs.
“I just saw these luminaries and all these kids standing there staring at me,” she said. “At first I was nervous. I thought, ‘Who are all these kids?’ ”
Finally she saw the “Marry.” sign and then the gazebo and she figured out the rest.
Adam got down on one knee and asked Stephanie to be his wife. When she said yes, he slipped a ring on her finger, stood up and they kissed.
With that smooch, the crowd of youngsters erupted, cheering and laughing and shouting congratulations.
“It was just perfect,” Stephanie said. “Adam planned something that was totally natural for us, but with a romantic twist. I was so surprised and it ended up being the cutest, most special thing ever.”
Stephanie and Adam, who both live in Tinley, hope to be married some time next summer.
Even though things did not go exactly according to plan, Adam said, “It was great.”
He did not expect an audience of youngsters to witness the event. He also didn’t expect a member of the media to be waiting in the wings.
But, in the end, he got the answer he was hoping for.
“With a whole bunch of extras,” Stephanie said.