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Firefighters find lost engagement ring
by Sean Carroll
Rochester, N.Y. --- It was a perfectly planned proposalbut it still required four Rochester Firefighters to save the day.
Chris Hawkins, a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and West Point alum, had misled his girlfriend of nearly three years perfectly. She thought he was still hard at work in Texas near Fort Hood where hes assigned.
Meghan Marone, a Rochester native who now lives in Austin, Texas, had no idea that Hawkins had snuck into Rochester and made arrangements with her parents. He asked dad for permission of course and then he found a spot at Ontario Beach Park where he would surprise Marone and ask her to marry him.
"I was thinking here because it's beautiful and I know it's special to her," said Hawkins, 24.
Before Marones parents dropped her off at that spot, Hawkins got busy working on patting down the snow so they had a path to walk down.
I didn't want her to get her feet too cold, he smiled. I was done with my walkway and I stood by the sidewalk and I put my hand in the pocket and it (the ring) wasn't there. I stayed calm, checked my other pockets, it wasn't there either and then yeah...it was bad.
The Army Lieutenant was panicking. He ran around searching for the ring, so much so that when Marone, 24, was dropped off she saw he was sweating just a bit.
"You always have to have contingency plans and I had to come up with that one on the fly, Hawkins recalled. But I knew she's a special girl and the ring means almost nothing, it's a pretty ornament but I knew she'd say yes, ring or no ring. But I did wait until she said yes to tell her I didn't have it.
Marone recalls being in shock when she saw Hawkins. As they strolled through the snow path hed created they chatted about his trip into town and she realized, all the lies that had been told in order to trick her.
So we walked here and he got down on one knee, said Marone while standing in a small gazebo on the boardwalk. I honestly don't remember what he said I was just kind of excited and said yes and then he said we have to find the ring!
The couple laughs now because of what happened over the next few hours.
They searched as best they could in the snow and dark. They enlisted the help of family and even went to Wal-Mart to buy flashlights, finding out only then that Wal-Mart did not sell metal detectors. The search lasted two hours and Marone even wandered off to a nearby restaurant for a warm drink and food.
However, word about the situation trickled south down Lake Avenue. The couple said an uncle of Marones who knows everyone was at a Knights of Columbus meeting not far away. From there word was sent to members of the Rochester Fire Departments Engine 19 crew stationed at the Lake Avenue firehouse.
Bob Hall remembers it being about 9 p.m. because he was watching the Buffalo Sabres game in between calls for service.
"Jimmy came in and said we have to go do a Good Samaritan run so we said Ok, let's go, firefighter Bob Hall recalled.
So Lt. Jimmy Marconi and firefighters Sean Finucane, Josh Reed, and Bob Hall set out for the beach with high powered flashlights on board.
"I heard he was in the service and he came home to ask her to marry him out there in the gazebo and that's why it all started, said Hall of the information he gathered during the hour-long search.
"I'd given up hope before they even got there I was really embarrassed the whole thing is a bit embarrassing, Hawkins recalled. But gosh they wouldn't give up, they would not give upthey were like we want to find this thing for you, we really want it so they weren't going to give up.
"We couldn't find it so then we gave up and we were saying in the morning you could probably find it when the sun comes up, actually we were all going to go there in the morning and go help, said Hall. The fireman headed for their truck when, I turned around on the sidewalk and I looked down because, he had the ring in a little plastic bag, and there it was sitting in the snow.
"I heard a shout that I had been waiting for all night and I just look over and see a guy with a little plastic bag and he was far away and it was just like elation, all the weight of the world off my shoulders, smiled Hawkins.
"We were almost to our car and suddenly I hear "BINGO" or something to that effect being yelled and we look back andthe guy's holding up the plastic bag with the ring in it, Marone recalled. (Chris) goes running, falls in the snow, I run and then he proposes to me again with the ring.
The couples magical, if not unorthodox; engagement was completewith the ring securely on Marones finger.
"It was amazing we are so thankful, smiled Marone. We went (to the firehouse) and said thank you today they were just amazing.
"Thank you guys so much, you really saved the day not in the normal way I know, Hawkins said when asked what he would want to say to those four firefighters who helped. I know you guys save days everyday but we're so grateful for everything you have our eternal gratitude.
The future Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins have something more than a ring to take back with them to Texas after the holidays. They have a unique story involving the Rochester Fire Department that will remain with them forever.
"The kids better laugh when we tell them," Marone bursts out laughing.