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Allie’s answer: ‘Yes’
Kyle Vandegriff was starting to get nervous.
He had planned the occasion down to the very last detail. And everything was falling into place wonderfully, except the one part he couldn’t control.
Allie Underwood, the woman he wanted to marry, wouldn’t turn around to look at the cliff behind them.
If she would, she would know why Vandegriff wouldn’t let up about asking her to go out kayaking on a winter day, then pull up on the beach and go for a stroll.
If she’d only look back, she would understand why he had been acting funny a day earlier when she asked what he’d been doing all day when he was supposed to be preparing dinner for guests while she was at work.
She didn’t know that behind her were a dozen roses stuck into the cliffside, surrounding words that Vandegriff had etched with a chisel, then spray painted blue and pink:
“ALLIE WILL YOU MARRY ME?”
She turned around as eagles caught her eye but still missed it.
“I was in my own world,” she said.
“She was looking right at it,” Vandegriff said. “And she turned around and said, ‘OK, you want to go back to the kayaks?’ I said, ‘Let’s walk a little bit further.’”
Finally, Underwood turned around again, looked up and everything became clear.
“As I sort of noticed the sign, he was down on one knee,” Underwood said. “I was like, ‘What’s happening?’”
Vandegriff’s unconventional marriage proposal to Underwood on a beach east of Oak Harbor in February left the nearby Mariners Cove community buzzing.
The message etched on a cliff about a mile from Mariners Cove left residents wondering about the outcome and who had gone to such romantic extremes.
It wasn’t until about three weeks ago that one of the couple’s neighbors in Mariners Cove noticed the engagement ring on Underwood’s finger and told her about a mysterious marriage proposal published in a story in the Whidbey News-Times.
“She said, ‘Did you hear about the proposal down at the beach?’” Underwood said. “I was like, ‘Um, I think that was our proposal.’”
Vandegriff, a pilot stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, had been thinking of ways to pop the question to Underwood since he purchased the ring a year ago. When he returned from a deployment in Japan in late January, he knew he had a brief window of opportunity until his next deployment.
So he started thinking of creative ideas.
The thought of proposing at a nearby beach they frequented with kayaks appealed to him. Then he got the idea of carving the message into the cliffside.
On Feb. 1, while Underwood went to her job, Vandegriff put the plan into action as he bought roses from Midway Florist then went to Home Depot to grab a chisel and spray paint.
“I think I must’ve looked pretty funny kayaking out there,” he said, “because I had a big orange bucket with all the roses in it, and my tools and stuff. So I bet the neighbors were like, ‘What the heck is he doing?’”
Which is exactly what Underwood wondered when she got home.
“We were having some friends over for dinner,” she said. “I came home from work and he hadn’t done anything to prepare for dinner and get ready. I said, ‘What have you been doing? You’ve had the whole day off.’ We were like rushing around. He was like, ‘Oh, I just needed to get on the kayak. I just wanted to get out on the water.’”
The next day, on an unseasonably warm Saturday, it all became clear after they paddled to their destination.
Well, it became clear eventually.
“It took me a while to notice it. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit,” Underwood said. “I wasn’t obviously expecting anything. We were just walking.”
They saw otters splashing in the waters, then bald eagles soaring overhead, and finally a man-made creation that ultimately brought Underwood to tears.
Together for seven years, Underwood expected the day would come, but was caught off guard on this day.
“Yes,” she said.”There was no hesitation.
“It was very special. He put a lot of time and thought into it.”
There is no wedding date yet for the couple, who are both 29, but they figure the big day will come in spring or summer of 2014. They will be moving to Fallon, Nev., soon, but plan to return to Whidbey Island.
They love living by the water and would one day like to purchase a boat.
That way, they can cruise by one of their favorite beaches.