True Love, Crazy Proposals
updated 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST
Almost from the beginning, Jim Gunja knew Angie Birchbauer was The One. "She was super-nerdy with curly hair and glasses," he recalls. She was 11. He was 9. But not until high school, after Angie had moved from their town of Olathe, Kans., to Florida, did Gunja summon the guts to write that he was in love with her. Her response was blandly platonic, but he eventually did persuade her to come back to Olathe from Florida Atlantic University and be his prom date. "It was going to be the greatest night of my life," says Gunja, 25. Or not: "Absolutely no spark," says Angie, 27. Over the years, though, they wrote often. Then, on an April 2001 visit, Gunja gave Angie a green envelope with a love letter in it and asked her to keep it with her after she read it, saying cryptically that it was "special."
Finally that fall, Angie had her epiphany. "Why am I dating these losers," she asked herself, "when I should be dating someone sweet like Jim?" The pair began a long-distance relationship, then moved to Morristown, N.J. He took a job in sales, she in marketing. Then, on a trip to Baltimore in September 2003, Gunja stealthily lifted the green envelope from Angie's wallet, where she had carried it faithfully for two years, and again handed her his note. This time he'd highlighted the first letter of each sentence. Recalls Angie: "They spelled 'Angela Marie Birchbauer, will you marry me?' " On Aug. 21, 2004, she did.
Brilliant minds propose on the same night
Pity the poor restaurant manager. Billy Olk and Michelle Mintz had been friends for two years and dating six months when they spent a weekend in Philadelphia in December 2003. Beforehand, each called the restaurant they'd reserved for Friday night's dinner with a special request: Olk, 40, an ex-trucker on disability for a fractured hip, asked for a menu to be printed with "Will you marry me, Michelle?" Mintz, 37, who assists with patient studies at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey (both live nearby), wanted a silver box she'd bought—engraved "Billy, Marry Me!"—to come with dessert. Inside: a diamond-studded ring.
In the end, Olk's plans were foiled: The menus never appeared—the staff got confused by all the requests. But Mintz's box did, garnished with berries and chocolate. Overcome, Olk wept. "I said, 'I finally got you,' " Mintz recalls. "He says, 'Actually, baby, I got you.' " Then Olk produced a princess-cut diamond on a band with 48 tinier diamonds, and a stunned Mintz fell off his lap to the floor. Back at their room, Olk had arranged to have champagne cooling and roses blanketing the bed. Says Mintz: "It was a perfect night."
Written by Richard Jerome. Reported by Susanna Schrobsdorff and Ethel Johnson in New York City