Reporter ends up covering her own marriage proposal
The mystery of the pink heart signs in Welland was solved Sunday when Ryan St. Denis proposed to girlfriend and Tribune reporter Maryanne Firth at Chippawa Park. (Supplied Photo)
WELLAND, Ont. -- As a reporter, I pride myself on being able to get to the bottom of things.
I like a good mystery, and I like it even more when I can solve it before anyone else.
But for once, I'm glad the secret was kept.
At the end of April, when signs began popping up all over Welland with big pink hearts on them, I started asking everyone I knew what they were for.
They were bright. They contained no message. They were everywhere.
My curiosity was piqued.
The signs quickly became the talk of the town, and I wrote a story about how no one was coming forward to claim them.
Now I know why.
About a week ago, new signs began appearing next to the existing ones, indicating something was going to happen at Chippawa Park on Sunday at 3 p.m.
As luck would have it, or so I thought, it was my weekend to work. I'd get to find out exactly what the creator of the mystery hearts had been planning all along.
I arrived at the park, slung my camera bag over my shoulder and headed over to a pop-up tent set up near one of the park's pavilions.
Despite the rain, dozens of people came out with umbrellas in hand, all eager to satisfy the same curiosity that had been eating away at me for weeks.
Inside the tent was a man dressed in a suit with a box over his head.
A box, you ask? Yes. Complete with a signature pink heart painted on it.
He was handing out flowers to onlookers with what I can only imagine was a smile behind his cardboard disguise.
He handed one to me -- a sweet, but familiar gesture -- then continued passing them out to others. Then he gathered up the remaining flowers into a bouquet, and he turned to me.
He removed the disguise.
This was the man who I've loved for the past eight years. Who I've built a life with.
This was all for me.
Ryan got down on one knee, and as I tried but failed to hold back tears, he asked me to spend the rest of my life with him.
No pressure, right?
Of course I was ecstatic. Shaking. Crying. Of course I said, Yes!
I was surrounded by strangers taking photos and video of our moment, but in an instant they all felt like family. Ryan had even invited my parents and his, sworn to secrecy, to witness our special day.
The congratulations poured in from familiar faces and ones I've never seen before.
When rumours of the signs' intentions first began swirling, many said it was a person looking to spread love through the community. In the end, it may have been geared toward one individual, but the love flowed through that park Sunday afternoon.
It wasn't until everyone began clearing out that I realized I hadn't taken any pictures. I hadn't even taken out my notepad.
Sure is hard to cover a story when it turns out the news is you.
While trying to take in everything that was happening, I knew there was an important phone call I had to make.
My editor was expecting a story. There was a newspaper to put out.
It's usually hard to catch a journalist off guard, but I'd say that was accomplished as both myself and managing editor Dan Dakin were left a little bewildered.
"I'm blown away that this is what the hearts meant. It's the most impressive engagement plot I've ever heard of," he said after the news broke.
"So many people from the community were questioning what the hearts meant, so to have this turn out the way it did is incredible.
"I'm sure Maryanne's fiance has just left many women jealous and made many men go back to the drawing board for their own engagement plans."
It all boils down to the fact that Ryan St. Denis knows me better than I know myself.
He knew I'd see the signs. He knew I'd be curious. And he knew my nose for news would drive me to unearth the secret.
How he kept it from me all this time, I'll never know.
What I do know is that I am one lucky girl and I owe a heartfelt thank you to everyone, especially the man in the box who made this the most memorable day of my life.