Romance is in the air
Couples show love’s spark isn’t confined to Valentine’s
Chad Esslinger fell for his sweetheart Sept. 30, 2006.
He fell -- as in sky diving from an airplane -- some 14,000 feet through the air.
His sweetheart is Tonganoxie native Kelly Breuer, who went skydiving previously in Oklahoma City and wanted to go again.
The autumn jump, though, hardly was the most thrilling event of the day.
As Breuer made it closer to land, she noticed a large white sheet on the ground.
In black paint, the makeshift sign read "Kelly, will you Marry ME?"
The couple jumped at an airport between Kansas City, Mo. and St. Joseph, Mo. They opted for tandem jumping, which involves one person strapped on the back of another. They both had skydiving professionals on their backs, with Breuer's guide deliberately coaxing her toward the sign.
After the parachute cord was pulled, Breuer started chatting with her guide, telling him he should move this way or that.
"What's that white square down there?" Breuer asked her guide at one point.
Soon after, Breuer's guide positioned them so she clearly could see what the "white square" truly was.
"I said 'shut up,'" Breuer recalled. "He just started laughing, and just went straight down real quick."
When the two lovebirds finally landed, Breuer didn't have an answer right away.
"She was pretty much speechless," Esslinger said.
When they met on the ground, Esslinger said he gave Breuer "a big hug and kiss" and proposed.
"She was crying and everything, so I pretty much thought it was a go," Esslinger said. "I got on my one knee and proposed and she said yes, of course."
Planning the proposal
Breuer embarked on her first skydiving experience about a year before the couple jumped last fall.
She kept urging Esslinger to jump with her sometime. In addition, the couple had discussed, a time or two, the idea of marriage.
"I always wanted it to be a special event, something she would remember," Esslinger said. "She went skydiving almost a year before and she wanted me to really do it. I thought 'what better time to do it.'"
The couple scheduled the jump for 2 p.m. that day, but it was delayed until about 6 p.m.Breuer, who is a hairstylist, said she was slightly exhausted that Saturday because she just had the grand opening for her salon in Kansas City the day before.
"She was getting pretty sour with the four-hour delay," Esslinger said.
At one point, Breuer asked whether they could grab some food. Esslinger's parents and sister were at the airport as well because his sister had flown into Kansas City that day from Los Angeles. So Breuer rode with them to grab some food.
While it didn't seem suspicious having Esslinger's family at the airport, it might have been a different story having any of Breuer's family at the jump. Debbie Breuer, Kelly's mother, had to hang out on "back roads" near the airport for the four-hour delay, Kelly said.
As frazzled as Breuer was that day, Esslinger was more stressed -- especially with the delay.
"Chad was frantic all day," Breuer said.
Once they were in the air, airport workers unfurled the sign for the couple's return.
"It was pretty stressful setting it all up, but I think it all worked out," Esslinger said. "I was so scared. There were two different types of fear there, the jump and the proposal."
Breuer remembered her now-fiance being extremely affectionate that day.
"Chad was trying to hug me and at one point I remember saying 'what's with the hugs today,'" Breuer said about a conversation on the plane. "All the jumpers knew about it. "He didn't want them to think I hated him, or that I was going to say no."
The proposal came to fruition and, in the process, Esslinger took care of a fear of heights. He said once he jumped out of the plane, he was in good shape.
"Jumping out of an airplane is crazy," Esslinger said. "But I'll do it again, though."
How they met
Esslinger, 24, and Breuer, 21, met in early September 2004 after a Kansas State University football game. Both were K-State students at the time, Breuer a Tonganoxie High graduate and Esslinger a graduate of Clearwater High near Wichita.
They started dating after that and now, more than two years later, are planning an Oct. 20 wedding at Hawthorne House in Parkville, Mo.
And Esslinger thought he had his plate full planning the proposal.
"It was crazy for the first couple months, Esslinger said. "We wanted to make sure we go the reception and major stuff booked. "Now we're pretty much on coast ... I'm sure Kelly's more stressed than I am.
To that, Breuer made a face and said "nah."
The couple currently live in Shawnee. While Breuer manages her salon in Kansas City, Mo., Esslinger works at a title company in Basehor.
Although today is Valentine's Day, Breuer gave Esslinger an early present -- tickets to watch their alma mater play against Kansas University last week in Allen Fieldhouse. Unfortunately for the couple, the visiting Wildcats lost the men's basketball game by 27. However, the couple plan to have a Valentine's Day meal tonight at Coco Bolos in Leawood.
They spent their first Valentine's Day together two years ago at the Coco Bolos in Manhattan.
The couple said it would be a fairly low-key Valentine's Day, as skydiving won't be on the menu.
"I can't top myself now," Esslinger said.
Couple 2 -- the trip abroad
Jessica Wiles was growing tired of the suspense.
The Tonganoxie native left Christmas Day for Europe to visit her boyfriend, Lance Sheldon, who is stationed in Iraq.
Before Jessica left on her flight for Europe, her parents, Ted and Kim Wiles, had strict instructions for her.
She needed to carry a package in her backpack onto the plane and not open it until she was with Sheldon.
The couple met in Germany and traveled elsewhere in Europe before arriving in Venice, Italy.
On New Year's Eve, the couple planned to eat at a nice restaurant.
"He decided he wanted to bring this package with him to dinner," said Wiles, admitting that she found it odd they were going to open this gift at a restaurant.
During the meal, Sheldon opened the package and pulled out a smaller box.
Inside was an engagement ring, and Sheldon popped the question on the spot.
And, of course, Wiles said yes.
"I was thinking those guys are so scandalous," Wiles said. "They had it planned to the T."
Sheldon had been in contact with a Manhattan jeweler last year about purchasing a ring, but was deployed to Iraq in July.
He later contacted Jessica's parents about his intentions.
"The both said they had been talking about it and wondered when I was finally going to ask the question," Sheldon said in an e-mail sent Saturday from Iraq. "So, I had their blessing which made me happy they agreed. I then asked them if they would be able to help me obtain the engagement ring if I purchased it."
On a visit last year to Manhattan to see their daughter, Ted and Kim stopped by the jewelry store.
Of course, getting an engagement ring from Kansas to an overseas destination is no easy task.
"They went through other processes," Wiles said. "They tried to send it to Iraq and no one would insure it; no one wanted to come close to touching it."
So they went with plan B.
Her mother put several post-it notes around the ring box so that it wouldn't rattle. The ring was securely kept inside the mystery package as the unsuspecting Wiles said goodbye to her parents and headed for the security checkpoint at Kansas City International Airport.
With her parents anxiously watching, Wiles' backpack had to go through surveillance a second time, but she eventually was cleared to board the plane.
Jessica recalled New Year's Eve at the restaurant, when Sheldon attempted to open the package.
"He was cutting it open with the butter knife," she said. "Mom taped it so tight."
Wiles said she wasn't sure whether she was expecting the proposal.
She said she went to Europe with the mindset "if it happens, that's awesome, of course."
But she said she wouldn't have been disappointed if that hadn't happened on the trip either.
Interestingly enough, her friends grilled her before she left about whether he would be proposing.
"They didn't know anything about it, which is even more ironic," she said. "Not too many people go over and be engaged in Venice and that perfect place that somebody could just pick.
"That was pretty cool. It was amazing."
Wiles said they met through two friends and have been together for roughly three years.
The couple haven't set a wedding date, as it depends on how long Sheldon will be in Iraq.
He first joined the military 12 years ago in his native Washington state and eventually was assigned to Fort Riley near Manhattan. He finished his time with the Army Reserves about two years ago. He then started civilian work in telecommunications at Fort Riley before continuing those duties beginning last July in Iraq.
Wiles, a 2002 Tonganoxie High School graduate and a current K-State student majoring in architectural engineering, said they likely would move away from Kansas after they get married.
She mentioned Seattle as a possibility; she completed an internship there, and Sheldon originally is from that area.
One more surprise
Although Sheldon surprised his special someone with a ring in Venice, he mentioned Saturday his Valentine's Day plans for his new fiancee.
He said two dozen blue roses were have to arrived Tuesday in Manhattan -- about the time he would be waking up in Iraq today on Valentine's Day.
"I figured I would send them to her so I would be able to have a nice Valentine's Day surprise in the morning," he said.
He also purchased a blue diamond solitaire necklace -- which has been hidden at their home in Manhattan since June -- to go with her blue diamond engagement ring, and earrings she already has.
"I will tell her Valentine's Day morning where the present is, which will be really funny," Sheldon said.