‘She said yes!’ Trumbull couples share proposal stories

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
David and Fran Sohayda of Hartford hold the Seraphim Classics Angel on which David offered an engagement ring to Fran 17 years ago. It capped what she said was a perfect Valentine’s Day.

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple David and Fran Sohayda of Hartford hold the Seraphim Classics Angel on which David offered an engagement ring to Fran 17 years ago. It capped what she said was a perfect Valentine’s Day.

An angel with a ring in her outstretched hand. A Caribbean beach surprise. A sleep-deprived father sputtering a wisecrack. All figured into wedding proposals.

For Valentine’s Day, we asked Trumbull County couples to share the stories of their proposals. Here are three tales of romance and questions asked.

THE ANGEL AND THE RING

When he told her he couldn’t get Valentine’s Day off, David Sohayda of Poland had no idea how that date already roiled her emotions.

And Mary Frances — Fran — of Hartford had no idea of the cherishing surprises David had planned.

“Valentine’s Day was always a special holiday,” Fran said. “My parents got engaged on that day, and my mother always decorated the house with hearts and sent out packages to all the kids and grandkids out of town with special treats in boxes covered with hearts.

“Valentine’s Day is also the day that my mother passed away from cancer in 1995,” she said. “It was kind of a tough day for everyone.”

And now, the morning of Valentine’s Day 2001, the guy she’s been dating calls her at St. Joseph Warren Hospital, where she worked day turn as a nurse, to tell her he’s working the afternoon shift at St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, where he’s a respiratory therapist.

“I couldn’t believe he hadn’t put in for time off on Valentine’s Day,” Fran said.

Then she pulled into her driveway after work and opened the garage door on Dave’s truck.

“I found him cooking in the kitchen,” she said. “He said, ‘Come with me, I have another surprise.’ He had a bubble bath with candles for me, with wine and cheese. He said, ‘You go relax, I’ll finish dinner.’

“Supper was shrimp cocktail, twice-baked potatoes, steak and a salad. The evening was wonderful.

“After dinner, we sat down to watch a movie and he handed me a gift. It was a Seraphim Classics Angel sitting on a park bench, and at the end of her hand was my engagement ring. He knew how to do it right.”

There was even the traditional getting-down-on-one-knee bit.

“When she opened the box, the ring fell to the floor,” David said. “I had to get down on my knee to get it.

“I guess I’m kind of a romantic guy to begin with so it wasn’t hard for me to think about it,” David said of his proposal plans. “I decided, ‘Well, I’ll get an angel for a gift and see how it works out.’ I don’t know if she was saying yes to the gift or the ring.”

“It was him,” Fran said. “He was always a good guy. We connected.

“We were married the following November, and here we are 16 years later,” she said.

It’s the second marriage for both. David, now 69 and retired, had two adult children at the time he proposed to Fran. Fran, now 61 and still working, had two boys in college. Now they boast five granddaughters and three grandsons as well.

Since Fran still works, David takes care of the cooking and housework.

“Husbands need to do stuff,” he said. “These younger guys, the want to treat their wives like slaves. If you want to stay married, it’s all open communication and trust.”

It also doesn’t hurt to turn an occasion marred by sorrow sweet again.

“My husband had no idea what had happened on Valentine’s Day,” Fran said. “He made a good memory out of something that was kind of tough.”

KNEELING IN THE SAND

Steve Yonce had the proposal all mapped out in his head.

“I knew about three months after we started dating that I was going to marry her,” he said of Brittany Calhoun of Niles.

He began saving money to take Brittany on a sweeping European vacation. They’d wander Europe and pass through Italy because Brittany is Italian. And then he’d pull out the ring at Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany. Brittany is a Disney fan and Neuschwanstein is the building that inspired Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland.

Steve nixed the idea when terrorists launched coordinated attacks November 2015 in Paris that left 130 people dead and 413 more injured.

Then he found out that Brittany’s parents were planning a 2016 trip to the Bahamas. The ideas flowed and this time, he got her whole family involved.

“I said, ‘Hey, Brittany’ let’s go with them.’ And we started saving up our money,” he said. “On her dad’s 50th birthday, I sneaked him away and asked for her hand. He said, ‘Absolutely yes.’ I had her whole family in on it. I had her mom helping to plan.”

Steve, 27, who grew up in Huntsburg, is a shipping loader at KraftMaid Cabinetry in Middlefield. Brittany, 26, of Niles, works as a nanny in Howland. They were introduced about four years ago on an online dating site.

“I didn’t think it was going to work,” Brittany said. “He was the first person I met off that website.”

“She was the second I talked to,” Steve said.

They met at a bowling alley, he with his friends and she with her friends. It wasn’t exactly their finest hour. But they chanced another meeting. And again. And fell in love.

Now Steve found himself making arrangements for a candlelight dinner on a private beach on the Bahamas. The surprise was set. If only he could keep it one.

The day before they left, Brittany snagged Steve’s luggage in hopes of wheedling additional packing space. She almost found the ring.

“When we got there, I gave the ring to her dad,” Steve said.

On the big day, July 27, 2016, they settled in for their sunset dinner on the Caribbean island, with the setting sun casting an orange glow across the turquoise ocean waters.

“Then my parents came for pictures,” Brittany said. “I said, ‘What? For pictures?'”

“I said, ‘Come see our fancy dinner,'” Steve said.

Then Steve asked Brittany to take a walk on the sand. Brittany said that Steve seemed agitated. She asked him what was wrong.

“I was so nervous,” Steve said. “I said, ‘Brittany, I don’t want to be your boyfriend anymore.’ Her heart sank. I said, ‘I want to be your fiance.’ I dropped to one knee and said, ‘Brittany, will you marry me?'”

Her parents snapped pictures to capture the moment and the glow on their daughter’s face.

“I was really shocked,” Brittany said. “I didn’t know it was going to happen. We never looked at rings or anything. He did it all by himself.” She still giggles as she tells the story.

Oh, and she said yes. They will marry July 28 after two years of planning.

“Short-term planning, I’m bad,” Steve said. “Long-term, I’m fantastic. I’m old school — make her happy.”

ONLY HER HAND?

Joye Lange of Mineral Ridge met the man she would marry at a USO dance in 1969 in California, where she and her family lived.

“He just came back from a tour of Vietnam,” she said. “He was a tall blond-haired, blue-eyed Marine, and I was very easily attracted to him.”

George Lange also sweated profusely that night.

“He called me three weeks later and said he was sorry that he hadn’t called but he almost died from malaria,” she said.

Fevers are a symptom of that disease that George brought home from Vietnam.

“I even liked him even with the sweat business,” Joye said.

A week or so later, on their first date, “He said, to me, ‘I am going to marry you.’ I said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa,’ as I was only 16 and still in high school.”

A year later, George couldn’t stand it anymore. On a visit to Joye’s home, he told her he had a question for her.

“I was very hopeful that the question my boyfriend was going to ask me was to get married to him. When he asked me I was very thrilled. But I said you better go ask my dad.”

Her father was lying down, trying to catch a bit of rest after working all night.

“My boyfriend went into my father’s room to ask for my hand in marriage. My father replied, ‘What’s wrong with the rest of her body?’ We all started laughing. It was so funny. Dad was half-asleep. It was like a slapstick comedy.

They married two years later, on Aug. 26, 1972, in a chapel in California. George went to work for General Motors Corp. and when the plant there shut down, he transferred to the GM Lordstown Complex about 25 years ago.

“Our secret is never go to bed angry and try to laugh as much as possible,” Joye said. “We respect each other very much and try not to argue about the small stuff. We do get into heated debates, though, quite often.

“We have date breakfast every Tuesday at our favorite restaurant. It is always something nice to look forward to.

“This year will be 46 years of wedded bliss, with lots of heartaches and laughs along the way. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am so glad I said, ‘Yes!’

bcole@tribtoday.com

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