As a rule, Kelly York is careful not to lie.
However, the Lake Township man didn’t mind twisting the truth just a bit in order to carry out the bright idea he concocted to propose to his sweetheart.
Kelly wanted to make his proposal to Rachel Sheely a memorable occasion – something personal and romantic.
One day, he was talking to his friend Teri Kohlhofer-Michalak. “I was saying how we have always liked the lights at the zoo – it’s so peaceful and beautiful,” Kelly said.
So the idea came up of proposing to Rachel at the Toledo Zoo’s Lights Before Christmas holiday display. Teri mentioned she had a friend who worked there who might be able to help, Kelly recalled.
Kelly would build a lighted sign that popped the question — “Rachel, will you marry me?” — which would be placed along one of the zoo’s pathways. Teri and her husband Dave would help by setting up the sign and hitting the lights just as Kelly and Rachel approached.
Twists and turns in the planning had Kelly on the edge of his seat and holding his breath. “We got an OK from the zoo to put up the sign, but they said we would have to bring our own power source to light it,” Kelly said. “The catch was, the generator could not be gasoline-powered.”
After arrangements were made to use a battery-powered inverter, Kelly set out to build the sign.
“I started working on it at home, but was worried that Rachel would find it, so I asked my boss if I could finish it at work” after his shift was over.
Even as plans fell into place for Kelly to pop the question Dec. 20, more potential glitches arose.
Mother Nature seemed determined to throw in her two cents’ worth. Foul weather caused the cancellation of the zoo’s light display Friday, Dec. 19.
And Rachel had made plans to attend the zoo lights with the children from her and Kelly’s previous relationships the weekend before.
“I wondered how I’d get her to go two weekends in a row,” Kelly said.
That’s when he decided to bend the truth.
A United Auto Workers Union rep, Kelly told Rachel they’d be attending a “union-related” event at the zoo.
“I wasn’t lying,” he said. “It was all about a union – the union between the two of us.” (Could this be why Rachel’s nickname for Kelly is “Twister?”)
On the big day at the appointed time, Teri and her husband set up the sign. Dave hid behind a tree and Teri concealed her curly blonde hair under a Santa hat and covered her face with her coat.
As Kelly and Rachel werewalking through the zoo, she asked him where they would be meeting up with the rest of their party. Stalling until they got to the appointed location, he told her he wasn’t sure because it was the first time he’d been to anything like this at the zoo. (Also the truth.)
When they reached the spot, Kelly knelt down on one knee, as if to tie his shoe. Rachel kept walking. Scooting closer to her he pulled out the custom-designed heart-shaped ring just as the blue lights illuminated, “Rachel, will you marry me.”
She read the sign. Then there was a pause - a long, silent pause, Kelly recalls.
“I was in total shock,” Rachel said.
“At first, I thought it might have been meant for someone else, then I saw Dave come out from behind a tree, and Teri wearing the Santa hat.
“And Kelly down on one knee holding a ring,” she said.
Although Kelly’s nickname for Rachel is “Flipper” she did not flip-flop on her answer: an unequivocal yes.
“It was overwhelming –something I’ll never forget,” Rachel said.