WITH VIDEO/GALLERY: After 35 years, Ann Arbor man pops the question for Valentine's Day
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It started as a date between two eighth-grade students at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor.
The date didn’t go so well for the young teenagers: William Collins was slightly too aggressive, and Beth Ryan was put off.
“I scared her,” said Collins, smiling at the memory.
Though they ran in the same circles in middle school, by the time Ryan and Collins reached Pioneer High School they had grown apart.
Ryan moved to Kentucky, and Collins moved on. Years passed: Each married twice; had their own families. They were states apart.
This summer, Ryan was visiting Ann Arbor, where Collins is now the executive chef for Picasso Restaurant Group and looked up Collins on Facebook. His status? Single.
Ryan went for it. They met at Knight’s Steakhouse for dinner.
“I saw her, and it was just like, ‘pow’!” Collins said.
Ryan went home to Arlington, Va., the following week, and Collins said he knew he couldn’t lose her again. With roses in hand, he boarded a plane headed east the next weekend to ask her to move back to Michigan.
It worked. The couple has been dating for about six months, and Collins knew there wasn’t any more time to waste.
Both Ryan and Collins are near 50 years old. They’ve exchanged friendship rings, and talked of marriage. Collins found himself cooking for Ryan — something he said he’s never done for any other woman. They’ve learned to be good to one another.
“We’ve both gained 15 pounds,” Collins said.
There’s something about growing up together that made their relationship that much more special, Ryan said.
Just last week, Ryan told Collins “I’ve known you 1,000 years and I’ve loved you 1,000 years,” Collins said.
He knew it was time.
At 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Valentine’s Day, Collins started putting his plan in action.
Collins, a retired instructor of ice sculpting at Washtenaw Community College, spent hours carving three blocks of ice outside the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center at 1000 Wall St. in Ann Arbor: A big block M. A swan. A heart with “Will u marry me” carved into it.
Collins was catering a lunch for the M Healthy program at the Kellogg Eye Center, and Ryan, a dental hygienist at Domino’s Farms, was due to arrive at noon.
“She thinks she’s getting a free lunch,” Collins said.
In the minutes before Ryan was due to arrive, Collins was on edge. Hurrying to finish the ice sculptures, he drew smiles from people walking in to the eye center once they figured out the scheme.
He placed a dozen roses in the swan for good measure. Collins and Ryan already wear friendship rings, so there was no worry of forgetting a ring.
Ryan’s SUV pulled up in front of the building, and Collins rushed to her door.
Before Collins could even get Ryan in front of the ice sculptures, he popped the question.
Without hesitation, she said yes.