HARVARD - Asking another for their hand in marriage is a nerve-wracking proposition. A woman turning the traditional tables and asking the man is novel, too.
Asking your boyfriend in front of thousands of townsfolk is downright daring.
But Jill Lee did just that on July 3 during the pre-fireworks musical show at Fruitlands Museum where the town's annual Independence Day celebrations begin. The crowds sprawled out on a grassy hillside that serves as a natural amphitheater.
Jill told her boyfriend she had to give a speech as part of her duties that night. But actually, she had been working with those involved to make this surprise proposal for weeks.
Jill was on the lawn, enjoying the music with her 6-year old daughter Cassidy Lee and her boyfriend, John Dec. Between songs performed by the 11th Hour Band, Jill took to the stage.
"I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and some of my fondest memories were of the 4th of July parade, the field games and the fireworks," Jill told the crowd. On Tuesday night, Jill said she wanted to make the evening "memorable."
Jill called John and Cassidy to the stage. Jill held Cassidy's hand and turned to face John.
"Just when I thought it was too late to ever find 'The One,' you came into my life and proved that true love has perfect timing," said Jill.
Jill met John while vacationing in Colorado this spring. They met at the home of mutual friends the night before John was to return to Virginia, where
The two clicked and talked all night, launching what would become a multi-month, long-distance relationship. The couple's bond strengthened to the point that the two have purchased a plot of land in Virginia on which to build a new home. Construction is to be completed this fall.
Though they'd talked seriously about marriage before, Jill said, "He had no idea" she was about to pop-the-question on stage. "Since we were moving away, I wanted to make that night special in front of my family and friends."
But there were several hundred people in attendance to hear the big question. "I wasn't nervous until we were all up on stage together," laughed Jill.
"Meeting you in Colorado is the best thing that's ever happened to me," said Jill to John on stage. "I feel very lucky to be the one that you love and excited about whatever the future may hold because I'll be sharing it with you."
"Tomorrow is Independence Day, and as you know I'm very independent. But I was hoping tonight you'd be able to help me change that."
The guitar started to strum and Jill handed the microphone back to 11th Hour Band lead singer Sandra Kimball, who also is the Chair of the 4th of July Committee.
Sandra served as Jill's voice, singing custom-tailored lyrics of the song "Marry Me" by Train. Kimball's brother, Mark Femino, played lead guitar, and Mike Geezil played bass.
Drummer Nick Simpson joined the band at the eleventh hour, hence the band's name. Simpson, 16, sat out the set, but was clearly gripped with anticipation about the proposal.
Sandra sang, "There's one thing left to do - Now that the weight has lifted - love has surely shifted my way .."
Simpson's hand went up to cover his mouth, containing his glee for the magical moment as Sandra sang the key lyrics.
Message melodically sent - and received.
John nudged Jill's shoulder. The couple's eyes locked and the two kissed.
Whoops and hollers rose from the audience. Able now to unleash his emotion, Simpson hopped up and down, pointed at the twosome and raised his drumsticks into the air in celebration.
"Marry me - Today and every day," sang Sandra. "So if I stand up here and ask you on this Independence Day, say you will - say you will ."
Sandra handed the microphone back to Jill. A hush fell over the crowd.
"John, will you please marry me?" asked Jill. John delivered another kiss before confidently answering, "Absolutely!"
The crowd cheered and fireworks exploded, punctuating the life-changing moment.
John said he was caught off guard
"When Jill said she hoped that I could help her be a little less independent I really didn't pick up on that," said John. "It wasn't until the 'Marry Me' song started playing that I realized she was proposing."
Sandra, who hadn't been back on stage since her children were born, said "It was an honor to be a part of their special moment. It was probably my favorite moment of the evening"
Jill and Cassidy move to Virginia in August in time for the new school year. A wedding date has not yet been set.
"John and I made a promise that we'll come up here for the 4th of July," said Jill. The mother and daughter said they'll miss their family and friends in town, but Jill added, "We're building a house big enough so we can have visitors."
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