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Olson: Man's blueprint for surprise proposal

Some men get carried away and just propose out of the blue, but Brandon Wessels of DeKalb spent months planning his airborne proposal to now-fiancee Kayla Strominger.
Some men get carried away and just propose out of the blue, but Brandon Wessels of DeKalb spent months planning his airborne proposal to now-fiancee Kayla Strominger.

It was December, and after about four months of dating girlfriend Kayla Strominger, Brandon Wessels knew she was the girl he was going to marry.

Brandon, 23, met Kayla, 21, at DeKalb High School when he was a junior and she was a sophomore, but they’d really connected later on. He didn’t want to just get down on a knee in the park or something. He wanted something big and memorable.

The Wessels family farms land south of DeKalb, and he decided that when he popped the question, a bean field would be his canvas.

“I told my parents about it, and then every time I talked with them, they had new ideas to modify the plan,” Brandon said.

By May, they figured it would be a fairly simple operation. Wessels and his dad, Rob Wessels, would plant two strains of soybeans: An early season bean, and a full-season bean.

By late September, the early season beans would be brown and the still-green full-season bean plants would stand out to spell out “Kayla will you marry me?” A family friend – and the family dentist – Bryce Deter, would fly Brandon and Kayla over the field.

Brandon consulted Google Earth, setting the view from above ground to 3,000 feet to calculate how big the letters had to be.

“I flagged out all the letters, then my dad took the grain drill and planted the beans in the letters I flagged,” Brandon said.

Brandon and his dad didn’t know at the time that summer would bring the worst drought since 1988. By late September, all the plants were sunbaked and brown.

So it was on to Plan B. While Brandon was away at school at Western Illinois University, Rob Wessels spent Sept. 28 and 29, in a combine tracing out the letters in the field.

“He said he was getting dizzy from going around and around and around,” Brandon said.

Then Sunday, it was time for Brandon and Kayla to take their plane ride. Brandon had wanted to make sure she wouldn’t suspect anything, so he’d suggested at the start of the summer that they create a “summer bucket list,” and just casually suggested that one of the things they ought to do was fly around DeKalb in an airplane.

They were supposed to take off at 9:30 a.m., and Brandon had planned to have both of their parents arrive at the DeKalb Airport at 9:45 a.m., so they’d be there when they landed.

They flew over the field, and Brandon tried at first to direct her attention away from the message. Then he pointed it out.

“We fly over, and Brandon points over to the field, and you know, just complete shock,” Kayla said. “All I could say was ‘Oh my God, really, are you sure?’

“I was shaking the entire time, and I was shaking probably for the next four hours afterward. I just still couldn’t believe it.”

Kayla said she never suspected what Brandon was up to. But in hindsight, it made sense that he’d been working on blueprints for months.

“I had no idea that that’s what it was for,” Kayla said.

The couple plan to be married in fall 2013, after Brandon graduates from WIU, where he’s studying recreation, park and tourism administration. Kayla’s already a nurse at Kishwaukee Community Hospital.

Good luck to them.

• • •

Good talk: Thanks to everyone who came out to participate in the Bullying Forum the Daily Chronicle and our sister paper, the Kane County Chronicle, held with the help of Kaneland High School this week.

There were many people in attendance and lots of good questions from audience members. It was a great way to cap off the papers’ series of stories and about the problem of bullying in our schools and communities.

Thanks not only to Kaneland, but also to our panel members: Andrea Monroe, associate director of the DeKalb County Youth Service Bureau; Robert Wallace, author of the syndicated ’Tween 12 & 20 column that appears in the Daily Chronicle; Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez, performer Stella Katsoudas, who recently recorded the tune “Stand for the Silent;” Kaneland graduate and anti-bullying activist Kyle Clausen and Erika Schlichter, director of educational services at Kaneland District 302.

There were a lot of good perspectives and insight shared. One thing that stuck with me – and what I’ve always thought about people who like to push others around – is that a bully’s worst nightmare is having to back it up.

• • •

Election season: It’s in full swing now. Maybe you already know who you plan to vote for in the 2012 presidential race – or Wednesday night’s debate has you rethinking that.

Either way, many of us tend to know less about the candidates running for local office than those running for national office, even though those running for county- or statewide office potentially can have more influence over our day-to-day lives.

But if you haven’t already cast a ballot – I think early voting now begins in June – we’ve got information on all the candidates in contested races available on our election website, elections. There you can see candidates’ responses to questionnaires, their photos and biographical information.

We’ll also be publishing excerpts of those responses in the Daily Chronicle starting next week.

You can see that from most candidates, anyway. Some didn’t respond. But that ought to tell you something as a voter, as well.

• • •

Let ’em eat breadsticks: I’m convinced that greater DeKalb wants an Olive Garden. Market studies show it, and the tremendous readership of the story about Darden Restaurants’ request for a $900,000 loan to build a restaurant in town reinforces it in my mind.

The city of DeKalb has the means to finance the plan to put the restaurant at the location of the old Small’s Furniture store at 2211 Sycamore Road. If the general enthusiasm for Olive Garden is any indication, they should be paid back before too long.

Hopefully the City Council will agree to take a bite of this meatball.

• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841 ext. 257, email, and follow him on Twitter

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